Hamlin will drive car with torn ACL

NASCAR star Denny Hamlin, widely considered Jimmie Johnson's top threat in 2010, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Friday playing pickup basketball, Hamlin told ESPN.com.

Hamlin said he still expects to compete, but surgery isn't an option at this time since the Sprint Cup season begins in two weeks. He plans to have surgery to repair the knee after the 2010 season.

A team spokesman said the injury should not affect Hamlin's ability to drive the car.

"I planted my foot to make a move toward the basket, and my knee just shot directly out to the left," Hamlin said.

On Dec. 16, Hamlin had surgery on his right knee to repair the meniscus.

Hamlin won four races in 2009, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished fifth in the championship standings.

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage.