Hamlin experiences pain in practice

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Denny Hamlin, who had surgery nine days ago to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, said he is uncertain if he can drive the entire race Saturday after experiencing significant pain and discomfort in practice Friday.

"I don't know how far I can go," Hamlin said. "It aches quite a bit and the range of motion is a problem. If I had to do it today there is no way I could do it.

"Your mind wants to do it, but your body won't do it. There's a delay on everything I do out there. I don't feel like I'm doing my best. I've done everything I'm supposed to do and then some to make it better. If it's not enough time, it's just not enough time," he said.

Casey Mears will replace Hamlin if Hamlin has to get out of the No. 11 Toyota during the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. A driver must start the race to earn the points for that event.

Mears ran part of the first practice session Friday when Hamlin got out of the car, but Hamlin stayed in the car for the entire final practice Friday afternoon. Hamlin went back to the garage in the middle of the practice to ice his knee.

"There's a lot of fluid build-up on the knee right now," Hamlin said. "The doctors are going to insert a needle in the morning and drain all the fluid. They also are going to take the stitches out, so I might have a little more mobility."

Hamlin would not divulge if he was taking in pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs, which would need to be cleared with NASCAR officials.

"I can't get into that part of it," Hamlin said. "Nobody else needs to know."

Hamlin said he hopes to make a decision early in the race about whether to get out of the car.

"If we do it, we need to do it early," Hamlin said. "I'll start thinking about it at 50 or 60 laps. My goal is to know what I'm going to do before Lap 100 [in the 375-lap race]. There's no reason to abort it if I make it that far. It hurts worse when I stop than when I'm going."

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.