Denny Hamlin has a shoulder issue, but he’s used to playing hurt

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 01: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 01, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin knows all about playing through pain.

In March of 2010, Hamlin underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL the day after winning at Martinsville. Three weeks later, he was back in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. Hamlin went on to win eight races that season.

In a 2013 accident at Auto Club Speedway—the result of hard racing against his nemesis, Joey Logano—Hamlin suffered a compression fracture to his spine and sat out four races, but he returned to win four poles and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin suffered another ACL tear playing basketball in 2015, but he put off surgery until the end of the season. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won two races and three poles in 2015, despite having to put up with the discomfort in his knee.

And this year, even though he’s one of the favorites to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, Hamlin has been suffering from a painful shoulder issue, a torn labrum, that will require surgery at the end of the season.

“I really don’t know how it happened, to be honest with you, but it’s something that has been nagging really for years,” Hamlin acknowledged on Friday at TMS, the site of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“I’ve had shoulder issues. It just got to the point where it was really bad, and got it scanned and figured out what it was. It hadn’t really affected me in the car at all. That part has really been fine.”

In fact, the shoulder issue hasn’t had a pronounced effect on Hamlin’s athletic pursuits, which include basketball, golf and weight training.

“It really hasn’t limited me, to be honest with you,” said Hamlin, who is second in the Playoff standings, 24 points ahead of fifth-place Kevin Harvick, the first driver below the cut line in the Round of 8. “It’s uncomfortable while sleeping. I can’t sleep on that side, but it really hasn’t limited me, to be honest. I got a Cortisone shot in it, which really, really helped.

“That’s like my saving grace, when things start hurting. So that really changed. It went from being immobile to feels like there is nothing wrong with it right now. I can still lift weights. I can only do them a certain way. I have to limit my mobility on that part, but it hasn’t affected anything in my everyday life.”

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