Before the 2010 Sprint Cup season even started, Denny Hamlin was behind the eight-ball.
Hamlin tore the ACL in his left knee while playing in a pick-up basketball game, something he enjoys doing in his free time. With Speedweek at Daytona just around the corner, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver decided that he would forgo surgery until after the season.
He already had a previous surgery in December on the meniscus in his right knee.
For this injury, when he wasn't aboard his No. 11 FedEx Toyota, he would wear a knee brace, while inside the car he would gut it out.
Everything seemed fine until Bristol rolled around on March 20th. The highbanks took their toll on Hamlin's knee and a few days later he discovered just how much pain he was in.
Prior to the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, his home track, Hamlin announced that after the race on Sunday he would have the surgery in order to use the off weekend before Phoenix to get as much rest as he could.
Hamlin went through with the surgery last Wednesday, after it was originally scheduled for Monday; it had to wait until after the Martinsville race, which was postponed for rain. After dashing through the field in the final laps for an emotional win, Hamlin headed home and had the surgery.
Through Twitter updates by himself and his family before, during, and after the surgery, things seemed right on track with his recovery and his status for Saturday night's race looked great—until this Wednesday night when Hamlin updated his page for all his fans.
His outlook seemed very grim.
"Regardless of what you may read," he wrote, "my plan is to start on Saturday night. Beyond that I just don't know."
By starting the Subway Fit Fresh 500, Hamlin would receive the championship driver points, even if he was to get out of the car after that.
The race on Saturday is 375 laps, a tough challenge for drivers that are healthy. But for Hamlin and a recovering knee, it wouldn't be a surprise if he gave way after driving as far as he could.
There is still plenty of racing left in the 2010 season and he'll need to be at full-strength if he's going to live up to the preseason predictions of being the driver that dethrones Jimmie Johnson in the championship.
Since he posted that update fans from around the world have reached out to the young driver, wishing him well and supporting whatever he may do. For Hamlin it won't be an easy decision and he has two and a half days to figure it out. But for right now, it's not something that he's enjoying.
"I would not wish this on anyone," he wrote in his next post. "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
Just as they were when he was driving to the lead in the final laps at Martinsville, all eyes will be on Denny Hamlin on Saturday to see what happens next. One thing is for sure, he won't give up too easily.