Denny Hamlin will not return to action at least until the Talladega NASCAR Sprint Cup race after confirming he will miss this weekend's event at Richmond.
Hamlin has been out of action since March with an L1 compression fracture to his back, an injury he sustained in his crash with Joey Logano at Fontana. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was expected to be out for at least six weeks, though he had hoped to be back sooner.
"Unfortunately I won't be racing this weekend at Richmond," Hamlin posted on Twitter. "It kills me to not be in the car for my team and sponsors but after long discussions with the doctors we have decided to wait on my return back to racing."
Hamlin has missed the last three races and has dropped to 26th place in the standings, 166 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
"We do have an agreement, I believe, on starting next week [at Talladega] and getting out, so at least we'll get some points," Hamlin said. "After that, I don't know. It just depends on what the doctors, the results of this (the scan) are and when they want to re-scan and check progression again...
"Physically, I'm not much different than I am every day with my mobility. ... We obviously have to be smart about this, because it is just one season. Hopefully, there's many more to come. I'm just trying to do the right thing for my team and sponsors, because I feel like they need me."
Hamlin is leaning toward back surgery during the offseason – or perhaps sooner if his prospects of making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup evaporate – because the compression fracture exacerbated a problem with bulging discs that existed before the crash. The bulging discs are far more painful to the 32-year-old-driver than the compression fracture was.
"(The accident) really screwed 'em up," Hamlin said. "I'm at the point now where, if they don't let me back in the car in a timely fashion, where I'm going to be racing for nothing for the rest of the year, I'd just as soon do it now and get it over with and come back next year strong and ready to go."
Brian Vickers will continue driving Hamlin's car at Richmond.