Denny Hamlin hit the wall head-on Sunday. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin is expected to be out about six weeks after suffering a compression fracture in his lower back in a scary crash Sunday in the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif.

Hamlin was released from a hospital Monday and flew home to North Carolina for further tests at Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates.

“Dr. [Jerry] Petty determined that Hamlin will not require surgery but will need time to properly heal, which is estimated around six weeks’ time,” Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement released Tuesday night. “Dr. Petty will make the determination when Hamlin will be able to return to racing this season.”

Hamlin has a history of back problems and injured his L1 vertebra when his car hit an inner wall, one that was not protected by a SAFER barrier, head-on. He and Joey Logano, a former JGR teammate with whom Hamlin has been feuding since the Daytona 500, had been racing side-by-side when they bumped on the last lap.


Hamlin is presently 10th in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup standings and JGR has not decided who will drive his car when with racing resumes April 7 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

“I was in big trouble,” Hamlin told USA Today’s Jeff Gluck, speaking with difficulty and wearing a brace, on Monday. ”The position I was in, I couldn’t breathe at all. I’m still having a hard time breathing. Literally, when I felt a pop, I couldn’t move at all and I knew I had to get flat to my back to be able to breathe again. That’s why I rushed out and just laid flat on the ground to start breathing again.”

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Hamlin has compression fracture in his back