Denny Hamlin will not be racing at Richmond International Raceway this weekend.
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Hamlin spent most of Wednesday awaiting final word on whether he would be cleared medically to compete in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race, then tweeted late in the day that he would not be in the field.
“Unfortunately I won’t be racing this weekend at Richmond. It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing. Thanks to all of my fans who have sent encouraging messages over the last month. I’ll be back in no time,” Hamlin posted on his Twitter account.
Brian Vickers was already officially entered in the race in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Earlier in the day, Hamlin had said that there were multiple doctors that would weigh in on the decision, with Dr. Jerry Petty having to give the final clearance.
“There’s a large team of doctors that have to have a consensus, so until all of them have the images, we’re still waiting on that,” Hamlin said. “They should have them this morning. Hopefully, by the end of the day, everyone will have consensus, will have time to look at it and review what’s the safe thing to do.
“I’m preparing (to be in the car). The team is preparing for it. Like I said last week, it’s 50-50. I haven’t really got a concrete answer one way or another. So I’m just kind of waiting for them to tell me what they’re comfortable with.
"Either way, I really would like to be in the car. If I’m not, we’ll just change our outlook for when the doctor says I’m ready."
Hamlin, 32, suffered a fractured vertebra following a vicious crash after contact with his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway on March 24.
Initially, Hamlin was told he’d be sidelined for six weeks to heal. It has been just more than four weeks since he was released after staying overnight in a California hospital for observation. Although Hamlin doesn’t want to rush the process, he said it’s “a balance between risk and reward.” Still, Hamlin is encouraged that doctors have said his vertebra is “healing.”
“There’s no exact science to knowing when a bone is 100 percent healed,” Hamlin said. “There just isn’t that information out there. If you want to be realistic about it, bones don’t really heal until actually a full year, (and only then) are they 100 percent. You balance out what are the risks now versus three months from now, two weeks from now. Is there that much greater of a risk?
“It’s just a balance in figuring out what the doctors are comfortable with. What are your odds of something catastrophic (happening)? The one word I have seen and heard is that they definitely saw bone healing."
Although Hamlin’s condition has improved, the injury further exacerbated the bulging discs in his back, which has caused the driver chronic pain for some time. The driver said that if he cannot return at full strength, he would prefer to go ahead and have surgery since this season is already in jeopardy.
“I’m at the point now where, if they don’t let me back in the car in a timely fashion, where I’m going to be racing for nothing for the rest of the year, I’d just as soon do it now and get it over with and come back next year strong and ready to go,” Hamlin said.
Should Hamlin return to action at Talladega Superspeedway on May 5, he is expected to start the race but would have a backup driver complete the event, given the precarious nature of racing on the 2.6-mile superspeedway.
"Physically, I’m not much different than I am every single day with my mobility,” Hamlin said. “I know that we talked about having a roof entry for Talladega. I don’t know if that’s still a possibility. I know with the old car, but I don’t know if (with) this new car if they are allowing that or not. We as the 11 team have always run a roof hatch, so if we’re allowed to run one then I’m sure that’s how I will probably get out.
“We have to be smart about this. It is just one season and, hopefully, there are many more to come. I’m just trying to do the right thing for my team and sponsors because I feel like they need me."