Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hamlin practices at full speed at Talladega

Denny Hamlin, left, has missed four races with a back injury. If he starts Sunday, he’ll get full points even if Brian Vickers finishes.

Getty images

Denny Hamlin, left, has missed four races with a back injury. If he starts Sunday, he’ll get full points even if Brian Vickers finishes.

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Denny Hamlin ran 16 laps at full speed Friday, turned his car over to Brian Vickers, then didn't totally rule himself out of running a full race this weekend as he recovers from a back injury.

Hamlin insisted he'll give Vickers the car at some point during Sunday's Aaron's 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

But with a sly smile, Hamlin left the door open to run a full race in his return from a compressed fracture of a vertebra in his lower back. After missing four races, he was cleared Thursday and said doctors gave him permission to run the entire race.

He said his intention was to "take a knee" after the start, getting out during a caution and letting Vickers. That slightly contradicted crew chief Darian Grubb, who said earlier Friday they would play the race by ear.

When asked about that after his practice stint, Hamlin stammered about his true plans.

"Ummm, yeah. I'd say there's going to be a caution at some point and I'd like to get out and just ensure myself of one more week of healing," Hamlin said.

So bet on Hamlin getting out of the car?

"Is there that bet in Vegas?" Hamlin asked.

He doesn't particularly like Talladega, or restrictor-plate racing, for that matter. But he found himself tossing and turning Thursday, unable to sleep because he was so eager to get back into his race car and onto the track.

"I just wanted to feel speed again," he said. "We have alligator blood. I don't know what to say. We're a different breed."

His return drew mixed reactions in a sport that's inherently dangerous.

"This is how we make a living," Clint Bowyer said. "You've got to put food on the table and we're all in the same boat. We're all given a wonderful opportunity to get paid doing what we love to do, so anytime a racer is okay to get back in the car, he's going to do it whether he's sore or whatever the case is."

Jeff Gordon, 41, and father of two young children, wasn't sure what his approach would be.

"I think for me, I'm later in my career and have a family and so an injury like what Denny went through, I don't know," Gordon said. "I might not come back from that just because, is it worth it? … What (Hamlin is) doing this weekend, to me that makes sense. It's Talladega, there's ways to avoid those incidents."

Pastrana on pole: Travis Pastrana earned his first career Nationwide series pole at Talladega in qualifying for today's Aaron's 312. The 10-time X Games gold medalist had a fast lap of 176.500 mph on the 2.66-mile tri-oval. Austin Dillon (176.162) will start second, followed by Trevor Bayne and Sprint Cup regular Danica Patrick.

Kurt Busch to take IndyCar for spin: Kurt Busch will test an IndyCar for Andretti Autosport next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was at Indy this week testing tires for Goodyear with his NASCAR team, Furniture Row Racing. Busch will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet of IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

NHRA: Rain postponed qualifying at the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Only eight Pro Stock cars made runs before consistent showers returned to the track northeast of Atlanta.

Hamlin practices at full speed at Talladega 05/03/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 3, 2013 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    The Rays had good reason to have faith in RHP Erasmo Ramirez starting Monday after closing Sunday based on his resiliency, versatility and efficiency. But it still turned out to be a bad idea as he allowed four runs without getting through three innings.

  3. Rays journal: Dugout bench becomes bed for Logan Morrison at end of long night

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays found creative ways to get through the physical and mental fatigue of the 6½ hours they spent playing — and ultimately winning — Sunday's game in Minnesota.

    Corey Dickerson drapes towels over an exhausted Logan Morrison in the dugout during the 15th inning of Sunday’s marathon victory.
  4. Rays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Arlington, Texas

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Rangers

    8:05, Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 2: Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
  5. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]