When Denny Hamlin will return to the racetrack remains up in the air.
Hamlin was involved in a wreck at the Auto Club 400 on March 24. He was airlifted to a local hospital, and it was determined he had suffered a compression fracture in his back (h/t Jeff Gluck of USA Today). The seriousness of the injury is yet to be known.
Gluck reported the following:
Austin Peyton, Hamlin's day-to-day business manager, told USA TODAY Sports that Hamlin is hoping to be released from the hospital Monday and fly home this afternoon to North Carolina for further evaluation by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week.
Hamlin is stable enough to return home, but Peyton said it is undetermined whether surgery will be needed or whether Hamlin might miss any races.
Hamlin tweeted a picture of himself in the hospital to allay any fears that his fans might have about his condition:
All good twitter.com/dennyhamlin/st…— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 25, 2013
The incident occurred during the final lap of the race. He and Joey Logano were battling for position to see who would take home the checkered flag. Logano and Hamlin continued to exchange the lead, with the two cars making contact.
Watching, you knew it was only a matter of time before one or both of the drivers would be involved in an accident. Eventually, it was one bump too many as Logano slid along the retaining wall and Hamlin hit the inside wall headfirst.
Both he and Logano have plenty of history together, not including the wreck on Sunday. The two were teammates with Joe Gibbs Racing last year. Logano left for Penske Racing prior to this season.
There's been some bad blood between the drivers ever since. Hamlin had bumped Logano at Bristol a little over a week ago. Logano then chose to confront Hamlin after the race (h/t Nate Ryan of USA Today). Logano contended that his former teammate spun him out on purpose.
Should Hamlin be forced to miss any races, he could lose any shot of a points title in 2013. He's currently 54 points off leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Hamlin has a 2010 runner-up finish on his resume but followed that up with a ninth-place finish in 2011 and sixth-place finish in 2012.