Denny Hamlin escaped injury after a jarring hit during Sunday's NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway.
Running in the seventh position, Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota unexpectedly had a right-front tire explode as he exited Turn 4, sending him slamming into the outside wall. Although he was able to drive the car to the garage and exit the machine under his own power, the impact was such he was transported to an on-site medical facility for further evaluation.
Hamlin suffered an L1 compression fracture in his back in a crash at Auto Club Speedway in March, and there was concern he re-aggravated his injury. He missed four races and part of another while recovering.
After being cleared by medical personnel, Hamlin explained his back was fine and that the accident had "rung his bell," though he was already feeling better. He also said the impact caused his knee to slam against the steering column.
"It's very similar to Kansas of last year during the test day of the race weekend," Hamlin said. "Flat right side hit, especially, you are picking up a lot of speed off of (Turn) 4 here.
"Obviously, when I lost steering I hit flat. I would rather hit head-on anywhere than flat up against the wall on these walls."
Hamlin is scheduled to test Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but before he gets back into the car he will be further evaluated.
As a result of the wreck, Hamlin finished 35th and fell further behind in his effort to climb back in the top 20 in points and contend for a Chase wild card. He's now 104 points in arrears of 20th-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with only nine regular season races remaining.
"We're just going to try to win races," Hamlin said. "That's what my job is for the rest of the year is to try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team."
Because of the near-improbability that he won't qualify for the Chase, there is question whether Hamlin will finish the year out.
When he returned from his injury in May, Hamlin conceded that if he fell out of Chase he would consider having surgery, which he is slated to undergo during the offseason, earlier than planned. This would allow him more time to recuperate.
Team owner Joe Gibbs, however, said he has no intention of sitting Hamlin and if his driver is healthy enough to continue racing he sees no need to give him a rest.
"I don't see any reason," Gibbs said. "I think Denny wants to stay after it and we have a chance to get some wins for 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 a miracle in there.
"I think Denny feels that way, too. He was fired up for today. I felt like he was going to get after it today. So he's got a good attitude and we'll keep swinging."