Every back injury is different and there is hope that Hamlin's case won't end up requiring surgery down the road or involve a more extensive lay-off than six weeks. However, the 32-year-old does have a long history of back problems, last year suffering from back spasms resulting from what he described as "bulging disks" that required careful management through rehabilitation, injections, strength-building exercises and cutting back on possible trigger activities such as golf and basketball. Hamlin has said he feels the condition might be genetic, as his father suffers from the same problems.
For the time being, rest and recuperation are on the agenda for Hamlin once he gets home before anything is decided about his return to racing. He'll need to be cleared for competition by Dr Jerry Petty before he's allowed to get back into a race car, and part of that will need him to be off any pain medications first.
"We're kind of leaving the analyzing for him [Dr. Petty] on what to do either surgery-wise or just stick with a brace and let it heal itself," Hamlin said, not sounding optimistic about a quick return. "Either way, obviously, both of them take a lot of time."
JGR said that it is not planning on making any immediate announcements regarding contingency plans about who might be in line to fill the #11 race seat. NASCAR takes a week off this weekend for Easter before the next scheduled event on April 7 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, giving the team extra time to decide.
The team's Nationwide Series driver Elliott Sadler could get called up to fill in for Hamlin for any short-term absence at Martinsville Speedway; JGR's other Nationwide competitor Brian Vickers is already lined up to run in the Cup race there with Michael Waltrip Racing, but he could still be an option to fill in for Hamlin in subsequent races.
The accident in which Hamlin was injured happened when he and Joey Logano were competing for the race win out of the final corner of the two-mile Auto Club Speedway. Running on the low-side, Logano was unable to hold the tight line and drifted up unto Hamlin putting them both into the wall. Hamlin then rebounded and hit the inside wall nose-on at high speed in an impact that lifted the car clear off the ground, which is what appears to have done the actual damage to the driver.
Hamen said he'd heard from almost every fellow NASCAR driver while in the hospital - except for Logano, whom he clearly felt wrecked him deliberately. "At the end, I think he saw I was going to win and he wasn't going to let that happen," he said.
Logano himself gave his first comments to the media since learning of Hamlin's injury, in which he expressed regret about Hamlin's condition while once again denying he'd intentionally sought to wreck his rival regardless of the recent building animosity between the two former team mates.
"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," he said on Monday. "The last thing I wanted to hear last night was that he was in the hospital. We're hoping for a speedy recovery and hoping that he's out there racing at Martinsville.
"We raced each other hard, we pushed each other up the racetrack and there were no intentions of wrecking each other," he continued. "You want to rub each other a little bit, and that's part of the race," he said, adding that it was just bad luck that Hamlin had gone on to hit nose-first at an unprotected part of the inside wall lacking SAFER impact-reduction technology.