When Denny Hamlin’s number 11 Toyota hit the inside wall of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, following contact with Joey Logano, it was clear that the impact was a big one.

The inside wall lacked a SAFER energy-reducing barrier, and the crash was severe enough to lift Hamlin’s car into the air. When the Joe Gibbs Racing driver scrambled free of his wrecked race car, we all took it as a good sign, until the driver collapsed on the track and was airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Hamlin had fractured his L1 vertebrae in the crash, and now faces a six-week recovery time. Given this weekend’s break in the Sprint Cup Schedule, that means Hamlin will miss an estimated five races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

USA Today is reporting that current Michael Waltrip Racing driver Mark Martin, whose contract only covers a partial 2013 Sprint Cup schedule, will drive Hamlin’s number 11 Toyota in upcoming races, with the exception of the race in Talladega on May 5.

Michael Waltrip Racing has yet to clarify who will drive Martin’s number 55 Toyota for the races Martin will miss, but it’s likely that Brian Vickers will get more seat time. Team owner Michael Waltrip could also sit in, depending upon his other commitments.

Even at 54 years old, Martin remains a contender, delivering a podium finish at Daytona and scoring a pole position for Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix, Arizona. Perhaps one of the fittest drivers in the sport, Martin is proof that race car drivers are indeed athletes.