NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin will have reconstructive surgery on his left knee Monday, sources close to the driver and Joe Gibbs Racing told ESPN.com.
Hamlin, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in December playing pickup basketball, planned to wait until the end of the 2010 season to repair it.
But growing fear of long term damage forced his hand, sources said.
Sources said Hamlin plans to start every race and doesn’t expect to miss any competition, but plans to have a driver on standby for several races just in case. Sources are uncertain at this time whom that driver would be.
Per NASCAR rules, the driver that takes the green flag in the car earns the championship points for that race, even if he gets out prematurely.
Hamlin’s ability to drive the No. 11 Toyota is more about his pain tolerance than anything else, sources said. Strength-wise he should be fine. If he can handle the pain, he can race, the sources said.
Hamlin, widely considered the biggest threat to upend Jimmie Johnson’s championship stranglehold, has begun slowly in 2010. He is 19th in the point standings and has yet to earn a top-10 finish in the season’s first five events.