By admin | January 24, 2010
By Richard Allen
Denny Hamlin has some skills on the basketball court from what Iâ€™ve been told. However, those skills were not enough to prevent him from suffering an injury while playing a recent pick-up game.
Hamlin suffered a tear of the ACL to his left knee.
Trouble is, many have penciled Hamlin in as a contender to challenge Jimmie Johnsonâ€™s four year hold on the Sprint Cup title. A blown knee will almost certainly hamper his effort toward unseating Johnson and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports gang in 2010.
As it stands now, the Virginia driver plans to complete the season and then have surgery after the final race in Homestead. Thatâ€™s 36 Sprint Cup races and eleven months away.
It would be one thing if the injury had occurred at some point deep into the season. But for a driver to tear an ACL on the eve of SpeedWeeks is a worst case scenario.
At places such as Daytona and California, sites of the first two NASCAR races, the knee should not create too much of a problem except during pit stops. However, as the season wears on there will be trips to Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond and two road courses to challenge the injured driver.
Most drivers brake with their left foot. 1,000 times of hard braking at Martinsville is hard enough on a healthy body.
There is at least one well documented case such as this to go by as an example of the impact such an injury might have. In the final third of last season Carl Edwards broke his foot while playing Frisbee with some friends. From that point on he only posted three top-10 finishes. How much of that was due to his foot injury may never be known but it almost certainly played at least a small role in the #99 carâ€™s weak Chase for the Championship performance.
As if the task of taking on a four time champion and all of the other Sprint Cup competitors wasnâ€™t daunting enough, an injury that will not improve as the season goes on has just added to the difficulty of what is an already difficult challenge. There is no way around it, Denny Hamlinâ€™s knee will play a role in his championship hopes for 2010.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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