NASCAR driver and Chesterfield native Denny Hamlin is out of the hospital for a lower back fracture from a bad crash during last weekend's race.
Hamlin walked out of the hospital on his own late Monday night, but he seemed to have trouble catching his breath as he talked to reporters.
He is flying back home to Charlotte Tuesday. It is still too early to tell if he'll miss any races.
According to the Associated Press, Joe Gibbs Racing disclosed the injury and said Hamlin was expected to be released soon from a Southern California hospital to return home. He has what is called an L1 compression fracture; essentially, the first vertebra in the lumbar section of his spine collapsed.
The crash happened when Joey Logano tried to make an end-of-race pass for the win but instead slammed into Hamlin, who went crashing into a cement wall on the inside wall.
Hamlin hasn't made any official statement but is talking with his fans on Facebook and Twitter. He says he's touched by the messages and humbled. He also posted a picture from what looks to be a hospital, giving the thumbs up, saying "all good" and "I just want to go home."
Hamlin does have a history of back pain. There's no word on how his injuries might impact his ability to get back to racing. Some reports indicate he'll know more after seeing a specialist.
Across the social media world, racing fans spent the night on edge, waiting for word on the Chesterfield native.
Meanwhile, racing experts replayed and assessed that move by Joey Logano.
"He made a mistake in the fact that he was trying not to let Denny make a legitimate move to win the race," said Joe Kelly, a local NASCAR expert and radio host.
Following the accident, there are more questions circling about track safety, SAFER Barriers, and why where Hamlin hit the wall matters.
The President of Richmond International Raceway gave our crew a tour of the track to show us the walls that are considered "SAFER." Those walls have foam between the concrete wall and the metal wall - if someone were to hit it, there would be something to absorb the impact. But there are still areas of track with just concrete walls, the part of wall Denny Hamlin hit. The concrete absorbs very little of the impact.
"Really, the cars tend to have more of a glancing blow off of this as opposed to a hard stop against a concrete wall," said Dennis Bickmeier, President of RIR.
The crash has many Hamlin supporters irate, wondering why the SAFER Barriers aren't all through the track. NASCAR only requires the walls in some areas. Fans also want to know what's next for Logano, the driver who landed Hamlin in the hospital.
NASCAR officials will review a black box in Hamlin's car to study the crash. That's standard practice, meant to look for ways to keep tracks, drivers, and fans safe.
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