RIR announced Tuesday that Matt Kenseth would drive the host's car in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown set for April 25 at the .75-mile track. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
Hamlin is out six weeks with a compression fracture in a vertebra suffered in a final-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway on March 24. He's not expected to return until May 11 at Darlington at the earliest, though he told reporters last week that he hoped to come back two weeks earlier to compete on his hometown track. While that's still uncertain, his charity event is a definite no-go.
"Obviously, it kills me to not be able to race in the Short Track Showdown," Hamlin said in a statement. "I grew up racing these cars against some of the best in the area, and it's always fun to come back and do it again, but my injury won't allow that this year. Matt has been a great teammate since coming to Joe Gibbs Racing, and I have to thank him for stepping in for me in this race. There's a great list of drivers in this year's field, and I know they'll put on an awesome show for the fans at RIR."
Kenseth, who moved from Roush Racing to JGR prior to this season, has been among the drivers most active in checking up on his injured teammate's condition.
"I'm honored that Denny asked me to fill his seat at his annual Short Track Showdown," Kenseth said. "It's a good event for a great cause and I know that it won't be easy for him to sit out his own charity race. We'll have a good time raising some money for the Denny Hamlin Foundation. I just hope some of Denny's magic at Richmond comes with the number on the side of the car."
Kenseth will be joined by a number of NASCAR stars who will mix it up with area late model drivers. Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson are all scheduled to compete -- as is C.E. Falk, a late model driver and special invitee whom Larson turned on the final lap of a Battle at the Beach event at Daytona.
The event kicks off a weekend that includes a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on the same night, as well as a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Friday, April 26, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, April 27.
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