Just how much will Denny Hamlin's knee injury affect him?

Everybody not sporting a #48 tattoo these days had to feel a bit of a kick to the ol' midsection at the news this week that Denny Hamlin had torn an ACL. Holy rupture! How on earth is Mr. Next To Knock Off Jimmie Johnson 2010 going to actually, you know, knock off Jimmie Johnson with his knee flopping all around like overcooked spaghetti?

Well, as it turns out, he might just be OK. Bob Pockrass over at Scene Daily offers up this fine take on how a messed-up knee may -- or may not -- affect Hamlin's quest for a Cup championship.

First off, we need to define exactly what the ACL in the left knee does in driving a car. And the answer is: not much. The ACL stops your leg from continuing to move once you plant your foot, which is why it tends to rupture when you're doing sports more strenuous than, oh, raking leaves. However, the ACL doesn't have anything to do with the lateral (side-to-side) movement or the rotation of the knee. Hamlin uses his left foot to brake and control the clutch in his car, and the ACL problems won't affect that.

"It’s very reasonable, as long as it’s an isolated tear and there’s no other injuries to the structures within the knee joint like the meniscus or other ligaments, to delay surgery to repair the ACL until after the NASCAR season is over," said Dr. James Fleischli, a Charlotte orthopedic surgeon. "You can do that safely, and he shouldn’t have any problems driving."

Reconstructive surgery would take up to 10 weeks for recovery, meaning that he could be pushing it to get ready for Daytona Speedweeks 2011 if he gets the work done right after the checkered flag at Homestead in November. But that's a worry for another day.

For now, Hamlin definitely won't be able to play basketball, and he could probably get out of hauling out the garbage, but he should be fine, aside from pain. The problem would be if he happened to wreck and hit the knee in an unfortunate way, but such a wreck could screw up even an intact knee.

One other thing -- any butt-kicking he does on Brad Keselowski will have to be purely metaphorical.

Denny Hamlin knee injury not a big concern [Scene Daily]