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Auto racing: Hamlin has compression fracture in lower back

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 7:10 p.m. CDT

Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower spine during a last-lap crash while racing for the win against former teammate Joey Logano, and Joe Gibbs Racing gave no indication Monday how long its driver could be sidelined.

“I just want to go home,” Hamlin tweeted from a hospital in Southern California. He later posted a photo of himself giving a thumbs-up and appeared to be wearing a back brace.

The team said he had what is called an L1 compression fracture; essentially, the first vertebra in the lumbar section of his spine collapsed. Hamlin was expected to be released from the hospital Monday and return to North Carolina to be evaluated.

NASCAR does not race this weekend, but returns to action April 7 at Martinsville Speedway, where Hamlin has four victories.

Hamlin was airlifted from the Fontana track after a collision with Logano on the penultimate turn sent him nearly head-on into the inside wall. Logano managed to finish third despite wrecking into the outside wall after hitting Hamlin, who spun Logano last week at Bristol and sparked a bitter post-race confrontation.

“He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets,” Logano said Sunday after the race won by Kyle Busch.

On Monday, Logano’s car owner said the driver was unaware of Hamlin’s condition when he made the comment.

“That’s a tough thing. Joey had no idea what the situation was with Denny when he was doing the interview,” Roger Penske said. “It’s one of those things that came out and taken out of context.”

Tony Stewart also got into a post-race shoving match with Logano, who aggressively blocked Stewart on a late restart.

Logano was 18 when he broke into NASCAR with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 with the nickname “Sliced Bread.” He’d risen rapidly through the racing ranks with the financial backing from his father, Tom, who used funds from the family’s Connecticut waste management company to help his two children pursue their dreams.

Logano had the means to pursue a racing career, and was in Georgia racing quarter midgets at age 6 while his older sister chased a life of competitive ice skating. But Tom Logano’s near-constant presence at the NASCAR races hurt Logano’s reputation, and him angrily demanding his son go after Kevin Harvick after a 2010 incident at Pocono only made things worse.

On Monday, Patricia Driscoll, girlfriend of Kurt Busch, referred to Logano as #TrustFundRacer in a series of tweets that accused him of reckless racing with “no less than 5 drivers.”

“We were lucky that none of the others were hurt by his actions,” Driscoll tweeted.

An agitated Penske thought the criticism of Logano’s upbringing was out of line.

“He’s a solid young man and his family has supported him in racing as many families of professional athletes do in every sport,” Penske said. “Anyone who looks at that as a criticism, to focus on that is just petty.”

 

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