FONTANA, Calif. (AP) – Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower spine during Sunday’s last-lap crash at Fontana, Calif., his racing team said Monday.
Joe Gibbs Racing disclosed the injury and said Hamlin was expected to be released soon from a Southern California hospital to return home. He has what is called an L1 compression fracture; essentially, the first vertebra in the lumbar section of his spine collapsed.
There was no immediate word on how long his recovery would take. JGR said he will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates later this week.
Hamlin was airlifted from the track after a collision with Joey Logano on the penultimate turn sent him nearly head-on into the inside wall. Logano managed to finish third despite wrecking into the outside wall after hitting Hamlin, who spun Logano last week at Bristol and sparked a bitter post-race confrontation.
“He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets,” Logano said Sunday after the race won by Kyle Busch.
Tony Stewart got into a post-race shoving match with Logano, who aggressively blocked Stewart out of a late restart. Hamlin’s team expects Logano to be fined.
Hamlin got himself out of the car, but then slumped to the ground beside it before an ambulance arrived. He was eventually airlifted out due to traffic around the track. His girlfriend, Jordan Fish, tweeted afterward that Hamlin was “alert n awake, main concern is his back.”
The injury is a bit more common in open-wheel racing, which has had three incidents of drivers breaking their backs since 2009.
Will Power broke several vertebrae in his lower back in a 2009 crash during practice at Sonoma and missed that event and the final three races of the season. He couldn’t train for two months and wore a back brace for almost four months.
He also suffered a compression fracture of his fourth thoracic vertebrae in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas but missed no racing as he healed during the offseason.
Justin Wilson fractured his fifth thoracic vertebra in 2011 and missed the last six races of the season. Wilson said he was in a back brace for 10 weeks.
In NASCAR, Sterling Marlin missed the last seven races of the 2002 season with a fractured vertebra in his neck.
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