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Denny Hamlin ruled out of Richmond return

Denny Hamlin will once again have to sit out this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Richmond, after doctors declined to give him the all-clear to return to racing.
Denny Hamlin's hopes of returning to NASCAR competition this weekend have been dashed, after the team of doctors treating him decided against giving him the all-clear following the spinal compression fracture he sustained last month at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had been hopeful of getting a clean bill of health from the doctors and being allowed to resume racing at this weekend's Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway, Virginia. But after a day spent consulting with his medical team and seeking a consensus on the current state of his recovery, Hamlin ended up disappointed.

"Unfortunately I won't be racing this weekend at Richmond," he revealed on Twitter on Wednesday evening. "It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing.

"Thanks to all of my fans who have sent encouraging messages over the last month," he added. "I'll be back in no time."

Hamlin was told to expect a six week lay-off from NASCAR competition after injuring his lower back in a heavy wreck at Fontana following contact with Joey Logano on the final lap of the race. With no race the following weekend at Easter, he's since missed the Cup races at Martinsville, Texas and Kansas, and he'll now miss a fourth this weekend where he will once again be deputised in the #20 car by JGR's Nationwide Series driver Brian Vickers.

The final word on Hamlin's condition went to Dr Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, who is NASCAR's main consultant on driver health when it comes to back and head injuries. Other experts consulted included Dr Terry Trammell, who is the chief orthopaedic consultant to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

At Kansas last weekend, Hamlin had estimated his chance of turning out at Richmond as 50-50, but new scans of his L-1 vertebra showed that the healing process was not sufficiently far enough along for the doctors to feel happy with him getting back in a race car.

"I really would like to be in the car. If I'm not, we'll just change our outlook for when the doctor says I'm ready," he'd said in advance of today's decision. "It's just a balance in figuring out what the doctors are comfortable with. What are your odds of something catastrophic [occurring in a follow-up accident.]"

It's now questionable whether Hamlin will even be back the following week at Talladega Superspeedway, a high speed circuit which would be especially problematic if there were to be a big wreck as so often occurs there.

Before the news that he was still ruled out for Richmond, there had been discussion that Hamlin might only start the race and then hand over the #20 car to a backup driver - a solution that would still reap him any Cup points that the car went on to win, but which would mean he was not exposed to any undue risk.




Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands on the grid after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, walks down pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 after the race was called for weather at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 after the race was called for weather at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, applies the Winner`s Decal after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on June 28, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, left, talks with Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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