Hamlin explained that he's suffered from inherited back problems involving torn and bulging disks in his vertebra for years and that the pounding he'd taken at the bumpy Kentucky Speedway last weekend had sparked off another attack. He hadn't realised how serious it was until he went to dinner after the race - and couldn't stand up again. Although his condition has eased since that scare, Hamlin decided not to push things ahead of this weekend's Cup race.
"Basically any other race track, I'd be on track at this point," he insisted. "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."
His back doesn't require surgery at this point, and exercises should help strengthen it for the time being.
"We know how to treat it," he said. "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."
The Joe Gibbs Racing team will have a relief driver on standby just in case, but Hamlin doesn't expect to need to resort to it.
Full qualifying and Thursday practice times