Denny Hamlin not cleared to return to racing

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 this weekend 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.

TALE OF TWO DRIVERS: At least for one driver, things seem to be improving at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing following the disappointing, if not disastrous, 2012 season.

Jamie McMurray continued his turnaround with a seventh-place finish at the Kansas Speedway last Sunday to move to 11th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings. While he admits there’s still room for improvement, he heads into Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway in much better shape than his 21st-place finish in the standings a year ago.

At the same time, teammate Juan Pablo Montoya isn’t better. In fact, his problems appear to be getting worse.

He’s 27th in the rankings – even worse than his 22nd-place finish in 2012.

PLAY IT SAFE: David Ragan’s car will carry the sponsorship of CSX’s “Play it Safe” program to emphasize the importance of paying attention to trains.

Fans will be asked to sign a pledge Friday at Richmond International Raceway to be more aware while driving over or walking around train tracks.

Their names will be placed on Ragan’s No. 34 car for Saturday night’s race.