Sunday's final-lap wreck with Joey Logano caused significant injury for Denny Hamlin. After Hamlin spent the night in the hospital, his team released the details on his injury: a L1 compression fracture. Following is the statement from Joe Gibbs Racing:
"Hamlin suffered a L1 Compression Fracture following an accident on the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
"Hamlin hopes to be released today to fly to his home in North Carolina where he will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week."
NASCAR has an off week this weekend. At present, it is not known if Hamlin will miss any races.
Hamlin and Logano collided on the final lap of the race. Hamlin spun down into the infield and hit a section of the wall that is unprotected by a SAFER barrier. He got out of his car and immediately collapsed to the ground. He complained about back pain and was helicoptered out of the track because of traffic congestion.
On Twitter, Hamlin posted the picture at right with the caption "All good." Earlier Monday morning, he'd written, "I just want to go home."
While it's too early to forecast any kind of prognosis for Hamlin, if he were to miss even one race his championship hopes would take a severe hit. In order for him to get into the Chase on a wild card, he'd need to be in the top 20 in points by the end of the 26th race and win enough races to outdistance the other nine drivers from positions 11-20. After 25 races last year, the distance from first to 20th place was 270 points; in 2011 it was 216 points. Hamlin is already 54 points back, and would need to win at least two to three races this season.
However, a single season isn't the issue here. Hamlin is one of the best drivers in NASCAR, and his long-term health is of paramount concern to Joe Gibbs Racing. The team could be forced to sacrifice this season for Hamlin to remain a viable NASCAR driver for the next two decades.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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