Denny Hamlin, cleared Thursday to race at Talladega, talked to the media on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway after practicing 16 laps in the #11 FedEx Toyota. A few comments from Hamlin about his back injury and return to the track:
Q) How did it feel to be back in the car in practice today?
Hamlin: "Obviously it's really good to get back and run some speed and get somewhat adrenaline pumping again. I'm thankful for everything Brian (Vickers) has done over these last four weeks and what he's going to do this weekend. We appreciate that and FedEx for sticking through it with us and obviously showing us a lot of support. So, it's definitely good to be back in a car and really just starting with hopefully what will be a good run in these next 17 weeks."
Q) Is it physically painful to be in the car on the race track?
Hamlin: "No, there's no discomfort inside the car at all. Really, for me, the most discomfort I have is getting out of the car. That's why we're choosing to go through the roof versus the window. It's much easier on me, and really any kind of twisting we can keep out of myself will be good. Really, inside the race car I feel just like I did six, seven weeks ago."
Q) Was it hard physically to get out of the race car?
Hamlin:"No, it took us one minute and six seconds twice in a row, so I think that we're going to be plenty good if a caution comes out to come out and preserve a lap."
Q) Are you concerned there may be an early accident that you could get involved in?
Hamlin: "As far as the first lap, early-on wreck it definitely can happen. We've seen it here at this race track on lap one and we've seen it on the last lap. I'm obviously going to put myself in what I believe is a safe position. Obviously you can't help things like blown tires or whatever that could possibly happen, but like I said I think the equivalency of our risks this weekend will be taking a knee."
Q) Are you definitely getting out of the car on Sunday?
Hamlin:"Yeah, I would say that's probably the most -- there's going to be a caution at some point and I'd like to get out to just insure myself of one more week of healing versus trying to come back in the middle of round six."
Q) Is there any risk that you could have a career-ending injury in an accident?
Hamlin: "I have to be careful with the answer of this. There's going to be risks. There is risk. There is risk until -- I don't know the exact science and no one knows the exact percentages. Nobody knows and that's what makes this really, really hard. With bone healing, it doesn't matter if you break your arm, you break your leg or whatever, a bone takes a year to heal. That's realistic. But, as far as I've been told and I understand it would take such a significant hit that you probably would be injured from it even if you were 100 percent healthy as far as I understand. So, it's very hard. I've got to let the doctors speak for that a little bit more than me because I don't know the risks exactly and neither do they. We're just trying to buy myself another week obviously until Darlington, but the risk is so minimal that it's almost not even there."
Q) Do you feel like you will have to be more careful in the race car with your injury?
Hamlin: "Not really. When I was in the car in practice you would think when you're coming back -- I know with my ACL I was cognizant the first time I actually went running again for the first time. Just trying to be -- I was scared of it. This is a little bit different because my symptoms from this went away after one week. I felt no back pain in the fractured area. For me, I'm only being limited on what I do -- the twisting, the jumping, the running, all of that -- just because I'm told to and not because I'm scared or fearful of it. It never even crossed my mind in the car so I think it's really a non-issue going forward."
Q) Why are you getting rescanned next week?
Hamlin: "It was scheduled. It's been on the schedule. I mentioned even through media that after Talladega we were going to get scanned once again."
Q) Have you practiced the driver swap with Brian Vickers?
Hamlin: "I think it's three minutes or high twos or something like that that you will lose a lap. But it took us right at one minute every time that we rehearsed it, so we're going to be plenty fine there. Everything is pretty seamless." Toyota Racing Transcript
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