NASCAR Q&A: Denny Hamlin injures knee

Denny Hamlin was on crutches Friday at Richmond International Raceway after hurting his knee earlier in the week playing basketball.
Denny Hamlin was on crutches Friday at Richmond International Raceway after hurting his knee earlier in the week playing basketball. Getty Images

Denny Hamlin will race in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee earlier this week while playing basketball.

Hamlin, walking with one crutch, met with the media Friday and talked about how the game-tying layup that led to the injury, why he’s waiting until after the season to have surgery and why he won’t scale back on his off-track activities.

Q. How did the injury happen?

A. “I play in a (basketball) league every week. I felt like I had jarred it earlier in the game. I didn’t stop, but I came out of the game (and) it didn’t feel 100 percent. I’d probably damaged the meniscus. I went back in and, unfortunately, I tied the game up with five seconds left and it went to overtime. I hurt it in overtime. I drove into the lane and made a layup.”

Q. How will it affect your driving?

A. “In the car, I’m as comfortable as any place that I (go). The swelling is the biggest issue. It hurts my mobility. I ran 15 or so consecutive laps (in practice Friday) and I was fine.”

Q. What are you allowed to do and not to do away from the track?

A. “I can do anything I want; just don’t break the law. There are no provisions or anything like that. (Team owner) Joe (Gibbs) does a good job letting us do whatever we want outside the car, as long as the activities are not that dangerous. So I’ll continue to do whatever I want to outside the car. I’ll just try to prepare myself to get physically stronger to prevent any injuries in the future. Other than that, I won’t change much.”

Q. Are you going to play basketball again?

A. “I’d like to. It’s what I do to relieve stress, and I have fun doing it and it’s the only way I’ll go for a run. There’s no way I could put on running shoes and go out for a 5-mile run. But put a ball in my hand and I’ll go for days or until I break something.”

Q. Are you risking damaging your knee further by not having surgery immediately like you did when you hurt the other knee in 2010?

A. “I think with that off-week (last time) we had a buffer of time to recover. I had moments outside the race car where I had buckling moments where my knee would give out, and I felt like I was doing more extensive damage to it. So, we had the off-week to play with earlier in the year so we decided to do it then. We don’t have that luxury this time around especially with the Chase coming up next week.”

Q. Could you have had the surgery this week and sought an exemption to take Richmond off before for the Chase?

A. “I thought about it, but I think that we were pretty confident that doing the surgery or not doing the surgery – either way – I would be the same inside the car. So, why skip a week if I’m going to end up being the same anyway? It’s really just to improve life outside the car.”