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Hamlin: More appreciative from the sidelines

Apr 23, 2013, 3:30 PM EST

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Denny Hamlin’s extended stay on NASCAR’s “disabled list” may come to a close before the race at Richmond International Raceway. Without racing to occupy him in the moment with his fractured vertebra, he’s soaking up other aspects of life.

“It makes me appreciate everything more,” Hamlin told USA TODAY Sports in Kansas. “For sure, it’s just the little things you don’t see when you’re so single-minded in the race car. You don’t see the bigger picture.

“Now I truly believe that me and (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) will be better coming out of this than if it never happened.”

Hamlin’s had more time to spend at home with his new daughter, Taylor. Mark Martin and Brian Vickers have driven Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in his absence.

With Hamlin losing points at a rapid clip – he’s now 26th in the standings – the only way he’ll be able to make NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013 is with multiple wins and climbing inside the top 20 in the standings.

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