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Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott give updates on recovery from offseason surgery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin says that he’s “pointed toward” competing in the Feb. 4 Busch Light Clash after offseason shoulder surgery.

Hamlin had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Nov. 22. He told reporters Nov. 30 that he was uncertain about his status for the exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because of the recovery time needed.

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“It’s something that you can’t shortcut,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “The recovery is what it is. I knew that I was in for three months (recovery) when I got out (of surgery) and there’s just no way to shortcut it.

“Am I going to be 100 percent (at the start of the season)? No, that’s not until probably March or April that I’ll be 100 percent. But I certainly will be better to start this year than I ended last year.”

Hamlin wasn’t the only Cup driver to have offseason shoulder surgery. Chase Elliott had a similar procedure done a week before Hamlin last November for what Elliott described as an “old injury.”

The 2020 Cup champion told NBC Sports on Wednesday that all is going well for his return to the car at the Clash.

“Everything’s been OK,” Elliott said. “Still on schedule and still doing physical therapy and all that stuff. … Everything has been solid thus far.”

Hamlin said he was in a simulator for the first time this year earlier this week.

“I’m doing everything that I can to get ready,” said Hamlin, who has finished in the top five in points each of the past five seasons. “I’m back in the simulator, and I drive until I get fatigued and then we stop. So we’re starting to work up my workload now to try to train and prepare for (the season)."

Hamlin said while he does rehabilitation, it can only do so much. The simulator prepares his shoulder for the rigors of racing.

“Although I am in the gym and I’m trying to get my strength back, until I get in a car and I'm sawing on a wheel, there’s different muscles that get activated and get fatigued,” he said. “So getting back in race shape will be different than my quest to get back in physical shape.

“I’m pointed toward running in the Clash as far as we know. … We’re going to continue to push and see how far I can go. We thought that actually the Clash might be a good opportunity to go ahead and if I’m going to get fatigued, do it then. That way I’m stronger in two weeks (at Daytona).”

Cup teams will have a weekend off after the Clash before the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.