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CUP: Hamlin Suffers Back Fracture

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Driver Denny Hamlin suffered a lower back fracture in a brutal crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway and might miss one or more races as he recovers.

Joe Gibbs Racing said Monday that Hamlin suffered a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae at the lowest part of the back.

According to a news release from the team, Hamlin is expected to be released from a Fontana area hospital today to return to his home in North Carolina. In Charlotte, Hamlin is scheduled to be examined by surgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, who has treated many NASCAR drivers.

Compression fractures typically take weeks to heal and often involve surgery.

The Sprint Cup Series is idle this weekend because of the Easter holiday and will resume the following weekend at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

Hamlin was hurt after he and rival Joey Logano crashed while racing for the win on the final lap of Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Logano bounced off the outside wall and continued to the finish, but Hamlin’s car was turned to the left by the impact, and he hit the inside wall head-on. The impact lifted the car into the air.

A decision about Hamlin’s immediate future in the JGR No. 11 Toyota isn’t expected until at least later this week. Five races into the season, he is 10th in Sprint Cup points.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.