CHICAGO – His pace is slightly slower, while his gait is noticeably stiffer.
But make no mistake about it, Denny Hamlin is not going to let a torn ACL in his right knee keep him from winning the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
At Thursday’s Chase Media Day, Hamlin brought reporters up to speed on his condition, nine days after tearing the ACL while playing basketball.
“It’s good,” Hamlin said when asked how his knee is feeling. “I’m walking a little bit more normal now, so everything’s good and everything should be good in the car as well.”
Hamlin, who hopes to be able to walk without a knee brace by Sunday’s MyAFibRisk.com 400 Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, has begun physical therapy, which could potentially play a big part of his getting to the final round of the Chase.
Hamlin hopes the knee-strengthening therapy will get him through the next 10 weeks before he has off-season surgery to repair the ACL.
“(I’m) trying to get as strong as I can now … so when I come out the recovery should be shorter,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin called last Saturday’s race at Richmond, his first since suffering the injury, a test to see whether the injury would impede his ability to drive a race car.
“It was about what I thought it would be,” he said. “I’m a week out now, and I feel like it’s probably a little bit better than it was the first time around.
“I think I had two or three weeks between the start of the season and my ACL tear last time. I hadn’t had to race on no ACL this quick. It hurts outside the car and it doesn’t hurt really inside.”
Hamlin said he’s ready for nine of the 10 Chase races but admits to hesitancy about racing at Talladega.
“Talladega will be the biggest challenge,” he said. “It’s not the heavy braking race tracks, it’s the one where you’re holding the throttle wide open the longest.
“But I’ve driven many, many laps at Talladega anyway with my left foot hung over there pushing the gas down because you’re leg falls asleep there anyway holding the gas down so much.”