FORT WORTH, Texas -- Denny Hamlin expects his left knee to be "aching for a while" since he never wants to slow down.
"It still hasn't quit [aching]," Hamlin said Wednesday. "My problem is I never let myself heal all the way and, of course, I continue to push the limits as far as I can."
Hamlin had surgery 11 months ago to repair the torn ACL in his knee, which he injured playing basketball before the 2010 season.
Yet, it's still bothering him. That was evident during media day at Texas Motor Speedway, where he won both NASCAR Sprint Cup races last year. Hamlin rubbed the knee at times after moving between interviews in the large ballroom and getting up and down several times.
Hamlin had surgery March 31, two days after winning at Martinsville, and never missed a race. He got the first of his two Texas wins less than three weeks after surgery.
When he won at Texas again in November, he took over the points lead with two races left. Jimmie Johnson rallied to win his fifth consecutive season title, and Hamlin was the runner-up.
Hamlin had a hotel suite that included an inside basketball court when he went to Las Vegas for NASCAR's season-ending awards banquet in 2009. Not last year.
"No way, I couldn't do the basketball suite again," Hamlin said.
That doesn't mean Hamlin wasn't playing basketball again.
"I was back playing a little bit of pickup basketball probably six, seven months after the surgery, when you really shouldn't even step on the court until a year after," Hamlin said. "I do everything I can to be competitive and try to rush the recovery process, and so I'm sure it's going to be aching for a while, at least until I give it a good few months rest."
Now Hamlin is back to racing. He finished 21st in the season-opening Daytona 500 before an 11th-place finish at Phoenix, where last year he raced 10 days after surgery and was 30th.
"I'm glad the beginning of the season is here," he said. "That way it slows down my offseason activities."
That means he has less court time.