Denny Hamlin is scheduled to return to racing full time Saturday evening at Darlington Raceway. He has no backup plan for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 and is determined to run the entire race.
Hamlin has not competed in a full race since March 24th when he suffered a compression fracture in his lower back. He has missed four races and drove only 23 laps last week at Talladega. Hamlin is currently 31st in the Sprint Cup point standings.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll go the whole way,” Hamlin said. “I stayed in the car for about an hour and a half straight with no issues during practice. Nothing was uncomfortable, nothing hurt or nothing was sore, so I’m pretty comfortable I can make it the three or three and a half hours that it’s going to take to run the race.”
He has no illusions about the difficulties he will face in his first full race since March.
“It will be a challenge,” Hamlin admitted, “because this is one of the toughest, physically challenging races that we have; not only by distance but the amount of mental focus that you have to have during this race is tough. You’re running right next to the wall and the margin for error is zero.”
Hamlin also believes that with a couple of wins and a little luck that that he can get into the top-20 before the Chase begins.
“There’s nothing that wins can’t fix,” he insists. “That’s the bottom line. If we put ourselves in position and win a race here and there, more than likely if we win a couple of races then we’re going to be top-20 in points, I would think.”
Hamlin continued, “You’ve got to have things go your way; that’s the bottom line to it. A lot of this sport is based on luck and we’re going to need some.”
Hamlin has already made a good start with a strong qualifying lap and will begin the race in the sixth position. NASCAR pre-race coverage starts at 6 p.m. on Fox. The green flag for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 is scheduled to drop at approximately 7 p.m.