Hamlin eyes return next week at Richmond

The SportsXchange

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin told ESPN.com Saturday that he might return next week at Richmond International Raceway.

Hamlin, who is with Joe Gibbs Racing, said his lower back injury is almost fully healthy. Otherwise, he will definitely be back by the May 5 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Hamlin was expected to miss six weeks after sustaining a compression fracture in his lower back on the last lap of the race at Auto Club Speedway in California on March 24.

He said if a follow-up scan next week shows bone growth and he gets clearance from doctors, he will race on his home track in Richmond.

"If everything works out, and if the scan looks the way I feel, we're going to be in good shape for Richmond," Hamlin said. "I feel there's been growth there. I feel I've gotten stronger. Everything is a lot better.

"Last week, I would have said probably not. But this week I feel a lot better."

--- Two spectators at NHRA qualifying in Concord, N.C., on Saturday escaped serious injuries when the body of one car blew off and sailed into the front of the grandstands.

The engine in Robert Hight's Funny Car exploded and sent the car body flying toward the stands, USA Today reported. Hight continued the run and was not injured, but the two spectators had minor scrapes after a piece of the body hit a railing and landed on a pedestrian walkway.

Hight qualified for the 16th and final spot for Sunday's eliminations.

--- Matt Crafton held off Joey Coulter in a thrilling 25-lap green-flag run to the finish to win Saturday's SFP 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway.

The victory was Crafton's first of the season and the third of his career. In beating Coulter to the finish line by .168 seconds, Crafton became the 13th different winner in 13 races at Kansas, breaking a tie for the series record with Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With a late pass, Ryan Blaney finished third, followed by Brendan Gaughan and series leader Johnny Sauter, Crafton's ThorSport Racing teammate.
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