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Hamlin out 6 weeks with fractured back

– Denny Hamlin will be sidelined at least six weeks because of a fractured vertebra sustained in a last-lap crash at California.

Hamlin was evaluated Tuesday by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates. Petty determined the driver will not need surgery, but the L1 compression fracture in his lower back needs a minimum of six weeks to heal.

NASCAR is off this weekend, so Hamlin could miss only five races if the healing process meets Petty’s estimate.

Joe Gibbs Racing said no decision has been made on a replacement for Hamlin, who is 10th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

In other news, NASCAR won’t penalize Tony Stewart for scuffling with Joey Logano on pit road at California and saw nothing to indicate Logano or Denny Hamlin were trying to intentionally wreck each other as they raced for the win.

In addition, NASCAR officials have given no thought to policing blocking, which is what Logano did to Stewart on the final restart to trigger the post-race confrontation.


TV viewers up 78% for IndyCar opener

The NBC Sports Network said it had strong ratings for its season-opening IndyCar race, with 388,000 viewers who amounted to a 78 percent increase over last year’s debut race on the cable channel. The race Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla., earned a .26 rating, up 53 percent from last year.


Duke assistant eyes Northwestern

Northwestern interviewed Duke assistant Chris Collins for its head coach opening, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

College roundup

Miami center Reggie Johnson had a minor surgical procedure in one of his knees Tuesday and will not play in this weekend’s East Regional games. Miami (29-6) plays Marquette (25-8) in the East semifinals on Thursday night in Washington. … The University at Buffalo hired Bobby Hurley to take over as its men’s basketball coach. … The Big East, which plans to rename itself this spring, signed a deal with CBS Sports to televise basketball games through the end of the season in 2020. Starting in 2014, the league’s basketball lineup will include Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple, South Florida, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Tulane.


Fans resist paying athletes, poll finds

A poll conducted by the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and the Marist Poll found that a minority of 21 percent supports paying college athletes but nearly half think top college coaches should be paid as much or more than their professional counterparts.


Around the NFL

Chicago agreed to a one-year contract with veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden. The 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden has started 49 of 101 games played for Indianapolis (2005-10), Atlanta (2011) and Chicago (2012). … Green Bay opted to pay tight end Jermichael Finley a $3 million roster bonus rather than cut him. … Cleveland signed quarterback Jason Campbell to a two-year contract. … New England re-signed offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who has started 44 of 51 regular-season games he’s played in and five postseason games since 2009. … Oakland signed tackle Alex Barron, who has not played a game since 2010.


Area signings, commitments

Recent signings at Snider include Kaleigh Ensley (volleyball, IU-Kokomo), Je’Norie Smith (football, Saint Francis) and Nick Reese (football, Saint Francis, Ill.). … Columbia City senior football players Adam Neeley (Saint Francis) and Kyle Weigold (Manchester) have made their college choices. … Bishop Luers’ John Wellman (soccer) and Adam Reust (baseball) will both sign with Indiana Tech. … Wayne’s Chellsea Lyons signed with Indiana Tech to play softball.


Serena ties record Sony Open wins

Five-time champion Serena Williams advanced to the Sony Open semifinals by beating No. 5-seeded Li Na 6-3, 7-6 (5). Williams, who last won the event in 2008, improved to 59-7 in the tournament. On the men’s side, Sam Querrey lost his fourth-round match to Tomas Berdych 6-1, 6-1 in 50 minutes, and for the first time the tournament will have no American in the quarterfinals. Also, three-time champion Novak Djokovic lost in the fourth round to Tommy Haas, 6-2, 6-4.