Hamlin to have knee surgery
NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin will have arthroscopic surgery on Monday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but isn't planning to miss any races.
Hamlin injured the knee playing basketball in January and originally thought he would be able to wait until after the season for the surgery.
"We just decided it wasn't a good idea," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. "We were doing some further damage to the knee and, to me, it's not something that's worth suffering forever and having a permanent limp or anything like that for."
Dr. Patrick Connor in Charlotte, N.C., will perform the procedure, which has been scheduled to take advantage of NASCAR's traditional weekend off for Easter. Hamlin said his rehabilitation will start two days later and that he'll be on crutches up to the next race in Phoenix on April 10.
Hamlin has gotten off to a poor start after entering the season viewed as one of the drivers likely to challenge four-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the points race.
He'll start Sunday's race 19th in the standings, but with the hope that his past success on the 0.526-mile oval will continue and get his season moving in a positive direction.
Hamlin is the only driver other that Johnson to win in the last seven races at Martinsville, and said "there's no chance" he will use a relief driver in Sunday's race.
After the surgery, he plans to have Casey Mears on standby for a few weeks.
"I'll be able to get in the car at Phoenix. There's no doubt I'll be able to get in it," he said. "It's just tolerance of pain is what's going to be a limiting factor."
Hamlin said he never took pain medication after injuring the knee, and he doesn't plan to after surgery because he "didn't want to have anything that I was going to get used to."
He initially might need to try braking with his right foot instead of his left, he said, but will try to drive the way he always has first to find out what his limitations are.
Having Mears drive in practice and qualifying might also be a possibility, he said.