UPDATE: Denny Hamlin released from hospital

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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 FoxSports.com’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.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.