Denny Hamlin's NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Joe Gibbs sees no reason why his driver would not complete the 2013 season despite the back injuries he suffered earlier this year.
Hamlin fractured a vertebrae in a Fontana collision with Joey Logano in March. He missed the next four races but returned promptly in the hope he could still get into the Chase by reaching the top 20 and getting one of the wildcard spots available to race winners. But with nine races of the regular season remaining, Hamlin is 25th in the standings, 104 points outside the top 20 and yet to win this year.
When he required a precautionary medical center visit following a tire blowout and heavy impact at Kentucky Speedway last Sunday, it was suggested that with his Chase hopes all but gone, Hamlin might be better served pulling out to recuperate properly. Gibbs not only dismissed this option, but said the Chase was still achievable.
"I don't see any reason [for Hamlin to stop]," said Gibbs. "I think Denny wants to stay after it and we have a chance to get some wins for [sponsor] FedEx.
"And who knows what's going to happen; we could get hot. I know he'll be the favorite at several of these racetracks we have down the stretch over these next nine weeks.
"Who knows, maybe there's a miracle in there. And you can't have a great comeback unless you're behind, so we'll just go after it and do the best we can. I think Denny feels that way, too. He's got a good attitude and we'll keep swinging."
Gibbs added that Hamlin's main concerns when he went for medical checks on Sunday were related to a headache and knee pain rather than his back.
"Right away, he said, 'I've started feeling better and better and better,'" said Gibbs.
Hamlin was cleared to get back in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on Monday for tire testing at Indianapolis.