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.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.