News & Media


Back spasms force Hamlin to sit out Cup practice

July 05, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin could feel his back tightening up on him the day after he raced on the rough track surface at Kentucky Speedway. Then he sat down to dinner -- and couldn't stand back up.

"I've made such decent to good progress through this week, that you don't want to give that up by getting in a wreck and then jeopardizing being able to start the Cup race."

--DENNY HAMLIN

Hamlin's occasional back issue flared up again this week, leading the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to pull out of Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway and skip both Sprint Cup practices on Thursday. He plans to qualify his No. 11 car on Friday and compete in Daytona's summertime 400-miler the next night, but in the meantime is trying to avoid sitting in the car any more than he has to.

"As important as practices are for the Cup Series, at this track they're not as important," Hamlin said Thursday. "Basically any other race track, I'd be on track at this point. But I've made such decent to good progress through this week, that you don't want to give that up by getting in a wreck and then jeopardizing being able to start the Cup race. I decided to sit everything out until I'm absolutely needed, and then we'll take it from there."

Hamlin said he inherited back problems from his father, and that he's had issues with torn and bulging disks that might require surgery years down the road. This week his back got progressively worse, to the point where the flare-up was the worst he's experienced in four years. Gibbs announced Wednesday that Joey Logano would replace Hamlin in the No. 18 Nationwide car for Friday night's event, with Clint Bowyer stepping into the No. 20 that Logano was originally scheduled to pilot. Thursday, teammate Kyle Busch made three laps in Hamlin's No. 11 car in opening Sprint Cup practice.

"Anything can set it off. And obviously the most risk for me having an accident in practice would be at a superspeedway," Hamlin said. "And the likelihood of me getting in an accident in the Nationwide race is fairly high as well. Those are things that could trigger me going backward from everything I've gained this week. That's the reason. Nine times out of 10, the best you're going to be is the way you unloaded anyway. We're confident [that] what we had in February will be fine for Saturday night. We just wanted to minimize risk. That's all."

Currently fifth in Sprint Cup points, Hamlin placed fourth in the Daytona 500 and has a best finish of third on the 2.5-mile oval. He has no plans to have a relief driver on hand Saturday, but does intend to work on strengthening his back to ensure a repeat incident does not happen.

"We really know now what's going on, after getting an MRI and looking at everything, exactly what's going on," he said. "Now we know how to treat it. This is something that I just kind of let get away in 2008 or whenever it happened the first time. Now that we have diagnosed it, we can make it better. I anticipate this really won't happen again."

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