Hamlin OK after surgery, plans to race

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It's a good thing Denny Hamlin sits while he works.

The 29-year-old driver had surgery last Wednesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

He suffered the injury while playing basketball during the off-season.

Football, basketball and baseball players generally miss a year after that kind of surgery, but Hamlin is scheduled to drive in Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix International Raceway since his work is done from the driver's seat.

"Everything went well," J.D. Gibbs, team president for Joe Gibbs Racing, said after the surgery. "He will start rehab immediately and now we can concentrate on getting his knee back to full strength. The doctors tell us it will improve with each passing week and that he cannot damage it by driving the car. We expect him in the car in Phoenix, but we're fortunate to have Casey Mears standing by in case he would need to come out of the car for any reason."

NASCAR rules make it easy for drivers to continue with injuries. A driver who starts the race and completes the first lap is the driver of record.

Essentially, Hamlin can run one lap and get all the points Mears earns in relief.

CASHING IN: Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to be a big winner when it comes to making money, earning a NASCAR-best $30 million last year, according to Forbes .

While he didn't win a race in 2009, he out-earned his closest competitor, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, by $3 million, the magazine said in its annual report on the racing series.

Gordon earned $27 million last year, while four-time defending series champion -- and another Hendrick driver -- Jimmie Johnson made $23 million. Tony Stewart ($19 million) and Carl Edwards ($14) rounded out the top five.

Hendrick Motorsports, which also includes driver Mark Martin, is the most-valuable race team in NASCAR, Forbes said, at $350 million.

Roush Fenway Racing is worth $238 million, while Richard Childress Racing is third at $153 million.

RACING FOR VOTES: Texas Gov. Rick Perry will sponsor Bobby Labonte 's Chevrolet next week at Texas Motor Speedway.

Perry is running against Democrat Bill White in November.

Labonte, who grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, will have "Perry Governor 2010" painted on the hood of his car.


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