After Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin got together coming to the checkered flag of the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota slammed in the inside retaining wall head first. The contact lifted the car into the air.
Hamlin was able to climb out of the car on his own, but he immediately went down. He was airlifted to local hospital for observation. He spent the night at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Hamlin was diagnosed with a fractured L1 vertebra.
He was released on Monday — and walked out of the hospital under his own power — and was allowed to fly home.
Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates evaluated Hamlin. Joe Gibbs Racing issued the following statement on its Facebook page:
Dr. Petty determined that Hamlin will not require surgery, but will need time to properly heal, which is estimated around six weeks time. Dr. Petty will make the determination when Hamlin will be able to return to racing this season. No decision has been made on a replacement driver for Hamlin during his absence from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
This news effectively ends Hamlin’s chances to win the Sprint Cup Series championship.
After his release from the hospital, Hamlin said he knew he was in trouble because he felt his back pop after the violent collision. He said he couldn’t breathe and is still having difficulty breathing.
Hamlin said that Logano has not reached out to him. He added that he made sure to give Logano plenty of room. But, he said:
I think he saw I was going to win and wasn’t going to let that happen.
For his part, Logano said:
I just thought we were racing hard, you know? It happens. You don’t ever want anyone to get hurt; you don’t ever want anything to happen, especially to Denny. We were racing really hard there at the end of the race. I wish there was a SAFER barrier down there, and I wish I knew before I made any comments on TV also.
Following the race Logano said:
He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week (at Bristol), so that’s what he gets.
He later said he didn’t try to wreck Hamlin in “any way, shape, or form.”
Kerry Tharp, NASCAR Director of Communications, tweeted that “NASCAR will issue no penalties from last weekend’s events at [Auto Club Speedway].
While no announcement has been made as to a replacement, Elliott Sadler, who drives for JGR in the Nationwide Series, seems like a logical choice to replace Hamlin.