FONTANA, Calif. – NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has been diagnosed with a fracture of his L1 vertebra which may require surgery and force him to miss time from the Sprint Cup Series this season.Hamlin was expected to be released from Loma Linda University Hospital sometime on Monday to begin his return plane flight home to North Carolina.
Hamlin was transported to the hospital following a hard wreck on the last lap of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in which he slammed into a retaining wall that was not covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.
He remained in the hospital Sunday night for further observation.
Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed Hamlin’s back injury in a statement released Monday.
“He will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week,” the statement said.
Earlier Monday, Hamlin posted a simple message on his Twitter account – his first since Sunday’s race. It read, “I just want to go home.”
While the JGR statement did not address the prognosis of Hamlin’s recovery, sources close to the team said two options have been discussed – surgery and the wearing of a back brace to help in healing.
Hamlin already has a history of lower back pain.
Both options could require Hamlin to miss time in his No. 11 Toyota, sources said. The Cup series is off this weekend for the Easter holiday and returns to action April 7 at Martinsville, Va.
According to the BACK Center – which specializes in back pain and spine surgery – the most common treatments are pain medications, decreasing activity and bracing. There are also new neurological procedures being used.
Vertebral fractures usually take at least three months to fully heal, according to the center.