CHARLOTTE -- Tony Stewart will miss the start of his final NASCAR Sprint Cup season after undergoing back surgery Wednesday to repair a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra, Stewart-Haas Racing said Thursday.

An interim driver was not named and a timetable was not given for Stewart's return.

Stewart suffered the injury while riding in a sand car with a group in Southern California on Sunday. He was transported to a local hospital and then flown to North Carolina on Tuesday night, where he was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital.

SHR said Stewart is expected to make a "full recovery" and return to the No. 14 car this season, which had already been announced as his last.

Stewart, 44, will miss the Daytona 500, a crown jewel event he has not won in his 17-year career.

A burst fracture is a spinal injury which occurs most often in either car crashes or falls from a significant height. The vertebra cannot handle the load when the compression occurs and gets crushed, spreading out the bones.

That type of injury is worse than a compression fracture, which is what Denny Hamlin suffered in 2013 during a crash at Auto Club Speedway. Hamlin did not require surgery but missed four races and part of a fifth.


Story from USA TODAY.