Auto Club 400 - Qualifying

UPDATE: Denny Hamlin released from hospital


UPDATE (11:41 p.m. ET) Denny Hamlin has taken to his Twitter page this evening to post a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up while wearing what appears to be a back brace. He later tweeted: “Everyone’s messages to me is the most motivating thing I could see. #humbled”

According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, Hamlin was released from a Southern California hospital this evening. He later told’s Lee Spencer that he was feeling “definitely better than I was [Sunday] for sure.”

“Really, my first reaction is I felt something pop in my back and that’s why I was really trying to get out of the car as soon as I could because the position I was in … I couldn’t breathe at all,” Hamlin said to Spencer.

“Still having a hard time breathing. When I felt it pop, I couldn’t move at all and I knew I had to get flat to my back to be able to breathe again – so that’s why I rushed out and then just lay flat on the ground to try to start breathing at that point.”

It is not yet known if Hamlin will miss any races as a result of the compression fracture in his L1 vertebrae that he sustained on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway after hitting an inside retaining wall following a last-lap collision with Joey Logano. NASCAR won’t return to action until April 7 at Martinsville Speedway.

UPDATE (3:05 p.m. ET) In a statement this afternoon, Joe Gibbs Racing updated the condition of Denny Hamlin, revealing that he had sustained a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae following his crash on the final lap of yesterday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

Hamlin and Joey Logano were battling for the win when they came together in Turn 4, allowing Kyle Busch to pass them for the victory. While Logano tagged the Turn 4 wall, Hamlin spun down across the track and slammed into an inside retaining wall that was not covered by a SAFER Barrier.

Hamlin was taken to the infield care center in an ambulance and was later airlifted to an undisclosed hospital. In this most recent statement, JGR said that he hopes to be released today and fly home to North Carolina, where he’ll be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates later in the week.

In an earlier statement from Sunday night, the team indicated that Hamlin had been complaining of lower back pain while he was in ACS’ care center.

Sainz uninjured, but to remain in hospital overnight

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Carlos Sainz Jr. will remain in hospital overnight following a terrifying crash during practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13 after losing control of his car, pitching in underneath the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

Medical crews spent 20 minutes extricating Sainz from his car due to the barriers’ placement before he was taken away to hospital for a check-up.

Sainz tweeted a picture to his followers confirming that he was okay, and Toro Rosso has now released a second statement confirming that the Spaniard was fully conscious throughout the crash and is uninjured.

“After arriving at the Sochi Hospital 4, Carlos Sainz, who never lost consciousness, underwent a medical examination, including a full body scan,” the statement reads. “The scan showed that the driver has no injuries.

“However, he will be staying in the hospital overnight as a precautionary measure, which is the normal procedure in these circumstances.

“We will release further information when it is available.”

Sainz tweeted that he was hoping to convince the doctors to release him from hospital early enough so that he could take part in tomorrow’s race, but any steps taken will be with his well-being in mind.

Rosberg charges to Russian GP pole in Sochi

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Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix from pole position after topping the timesheets in Saturday’s qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:37.113 to edge out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second to score pole position in Russia.

Following on from its dominant display in Japan two weeks ago, Mercedes showed few signs of easing up at the front of the field as it stormed to another front-row lock-out.

Having traded fastest lap times throughout the earlier stages of qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg renewed their battle in Q3 at Sochi, but it was Rosberg who finished on top.

Rosberg drew early blood in Q3 by going three-tenths faster than his teammate on his first run, and when Hamilton locked up late on and opted to pit, pole was safely with the German driver.

Valtteri Bottas finished as the best of the rest in third place, beating the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who finished fifth and sixth respectively as all of the drivers struggled to improve on their second runs.

Nico Hulkenberg and Force India teammate Sergio Perez will start sixth and seventh, while Romain Grosjean qualified eighth. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.

Home favorite Daniil Kvyat was unable to delight the local fans as he would have liked to in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 by finishing 11th ahead of Felipe Nasr. Pastor Maldonado was also eliminated, finishing 14th, but it was Felipe Massa who was the biggest casualty of the second session, ending up 15th for Williams.

McLaren experienced something of a mixed qualifying session on Saturday as Fernando Alonso was knocked out at the end of Q1. Teammate Jenson Button managed to improve late on to dump the Spaniard out and leave him 16th overall, while the Briton went on to finish 13th in Q2.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson also dropped out at the first hurdle alongside the two Manor drivers, while Carlos Sainz Jr. took no part in the session following his practice crash. The Spaniard still hopes to take part in tomorrow’s race, but will remain in hospital overnight.