Denny Hamlin will miss at least five races as a result of his last lap crash with Joey Logano in Fontana.
Hamlin, who currently sits 10th in the standings, suffered a compression fracture to his lower back in the incident with Logano as the two battled for the win in the final corner of the Auto Club 400, sending the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hard into the inside concrete wall – which was not fitted with a SAFER barrier.
The driver of the #11 Toyota Camry visited neurosurgeon Dr Jerry Petty on Tuesday, with Petty stating that Hamlin did not need surgery but would need an estimated six weeks to heal, said Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I just don’t know how my body will react to being in a car,” said Hamlin after leaving hospital on Monday, “and obviously we’ve got some obstacles just as far as getting in the car with the bracing I need. There’s no way at this point I could get in a car with no bracing. If we don’t do surgery, you do have a fracture, so I don’t want to make it worse. It’s not worth that.”
The six-week period means Hamlin will miss races at Martinsville, Texas, Kansas, Richmond and Talladega before a possible return at Darlington on May 11. Hamlin has not missed a Sprint Cup race since his first in the closing stages of the 2005 season, racking up a streak of 264 consecutive race starts.
No replacement for the seat has been announced, however Elliot Sadler, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, is the most likely candidate as his Nationwide Series team-mate Brian Vickers is already sharing a Sprint Cup drive in the Michael Waltrip Racing #55 with Mark Martin, a seat he is tipped to take full time in 2014.
NASCAR announced they would not be fining Joey Logano for the incident or for his post-race altercation with Tony Stewart.
“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,” said NASCAR Chairman Brian France. “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.”