Hamlin out 6 weeks with fractured vertebra
Denny Hamlin will be sidelined at least six weeks because of a
fractured vertebra sustained in a last-lap crash at California.
Hamlin was evaluated Tuesday by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina
Neurosurgery and Spine Associates. While it was determined Hamlin
won’t need surgery, the L1 compression fracture in his lower back
needs time to heal.
”Dr. Petty will make the determination when Hamlin will be able
to return to racing this season,” Joe Gibbs Racing said in a
While there was no official word from Hamlin in the statement,
he tweeted: ”I wish I got good news today.. I didn’t.”
Hamlin has made 264 consecutive Sprint Cup Series starts, 13th
most among active drivers. He raced two weeks after undergoing knee
surgery during an off week in 2010, and completed the race at
Phoenix without a replacement driver despite obvious pain.
If he heals according to Petty’s estimated timeline, he’d only
miss five races because NASCAR is off this weekend. But among the
next five are stops at Martinsville and Richmond, where the
Virginia-raised driver has a combined six wins. He also hosts and
competes in an annual charity race at RIR.
Joe Gibbs Racing said no decision has been made on a replacement
for Hamlin, who is 10th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. But the
team has former Cup regulars Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers in
its stable in the Nationwide Series, and both will likely get seat
time in the No. 11 Toyota.
Vickers is scheduled to drive the Sprint Cup race at
Martinsville for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Hamlin was injured when his car hit head-on into an interior
wall at Auto Club Speedway after contact with Joey Logano.
Hamlin and Logano have been feuding over the last month, and
neither wanted to give an inch as they raced side-by-side on the
last lap for the win. Both cars ended up wrecking after the
NASCAR ruled that neither driver was trying to intentionally
wreck the other during the battle, and no penalties were issued
Tuesday. NASCAR chairman Brian France said earlier Tuesday that
while Hamlin’s injury was unfortunate, the battle for the win was
the kind of throwback racing he expects out of the drivers.
”I have said repeatedly, every minute, that contact, especially
late in the race when you are going for a win, that’s not only
going to happen – that’s expected,” France said in a telephone
interview with The Associated Press. ”Both of them did exactly
what I think you would do when you really, really want to win.
Getting some contact, trying to race extra hard to win the race,
that’s what we’re about.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the last championship-level driver to sit
out, missing two races last season in the middle of the Chase for
the Sprint Cup because of concussions. Vickers missed more than
half of the 2010 season because of blood clots.
Sterling Marlin, who led the points for 25 weeks in 2002, missed
the final seven races of the season with a fractured vertebra in
The time out of the car could cost Hamlin a spot in the
12-driver Chase field. He has made the Chase every year since
entering the Cup Series in 2006.
Although he’s 10th in points, he’ll fall after missing
Martinsville. The top 10 in standings after the 26th race earn a
spot in the Chase, and the two winningest drivers not already
eligible get the final two berths.
Hamlin does not have a win this season.