Hamlin not cleared to race in Saturday’s Cup race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin hasn’t been cleared to race at his home track in Richmond as he had hoped.

Hamlin sustained a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident at California on March 24. Doctors said he’d miss at least five races, but Hamlin hoped to return early to race at Richmond, where he’s a two-time winner.

But Hamlin wasn’t cleared Wednesday to race after visits to Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, and apparently consultations with others.

“Unfortunately I won’t be racing this weekend at Richmond,” he posted on Twitter. “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. I’ll be back in no time.”

Hamlin has missed three races so far, two of which were won by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Brian Vickers will drive the No. 11 Toyota for him Saturday night at Richmond.

Hamlin also will miss his annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, the race he hosts at Richmond International Raceway to benefit the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. He had already tabbed Kenseth to replace him in his car for the charity race after he was injured, but had hoped to get back in time to race the Sprint Cup event.

Instead, he’ll again be a spectator for both events.

Hamlin has been watching the Cup races alongside crew chief Darian Grubb on top of the pit box, where he wears a headset and communicates with Vickers. He’s said it has given him a different perspective on the racing — one he hopes he can apply upon his return.

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