Denny Hamlin walks to his garage during practice at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on Sept. 13. (AP Photo)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin is trying a new treatment on his injured back in an effort to avoid offseason surgery.
Painkiller injections in his spine the past two weeks have helped, but he won't know until the season ends if he's made enough progress to skip surgery.
"These last two weeks, I've gotten some treatment done, and I've felt as good as I did before the accident," he said. "Now, the 10 races before that, I felt horrible. I had to get out of the car at Richmond during practice because I just couldn't handle it anymore, and there's been several instances where it was really, really bad. But this is hopefully going to buy me enough time to get healthy. That's the problem, there's just not enough time in our schedule to recover fully from an injury."
Hamlin had persistent back trouble even before he suffered a compression fracture in a March accident that sidelined him for more than a month.
With eight races left in the season, beginning Sunday at Dover, Hamlin said he needs time out of the car to rest and let his back heal.
"I'm not 100 percent, and I'm not going to be until February or January, and I'm not going to be until I have time to not be in a race car week in and week out," Hamlin said. "Our schedule is not the easiest by any means for someone who is trying to rehab and get better. I need that time."
He's had a rough go of late as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch run first and second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings. Hamlin, who has suffered through a rash of blown tires, gotten away from his setups and tested different things for Toyota, is winless on the season and 32nd in the standings.
It's the first time in his Cup career he's not been to Victory Lane and not participating in the Chase.
He's heard speculation that he's not the same driver since the accident at California, which occurred during a feud with Joey Logano when the two made contact racing for the win on the final lap.
"I didn't forget how to drive," he said. "We've got to find ourselves right now. We'll get there. I promise we'll get there."
Hamlin said he's had to give two of his best cars to Kenseth and Busch as they prepare for their title run — same as Logano had to do when he drove for JGR — and that all new cars off the assembly line go to the two Chase drivers.
Meanwhile, he said he and Logano have still not spoken since their accident. Logano did reach out to Hamlin shortly before the Chase began when Logano was still racing for a spot in the 12-driver field. Hamlin said Logano left him a voice mail, and when Hamlin returned the call, Logano didn't answer.
"My guess is someone told him to call me, probably Roger Penske, and told him to make things right between us before it was too late," Hamlin said. "There just is nothing to say until there's an apology. Until then, he's going to know every time I'm behind him. I'm never going to give him an inch. Every time he tries to pass me, I'm never going to give him an inch. And someone had to tell him that's going to be a hard way to race through the Chase, so I'm guessing that's why he tried to call me."
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