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2013 Talladega NASCAR: Hamlin happy with brief return

Denny Hamlin drove for just 23 laps in Sunday's Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, and that was precisely according to plan.
Denny Hamlin was back in NASCAR Sprint Cup action this weekend for the first time since his accident at Fontana the week before Easter that left him with a compression fracture of the lower back.

Hamlin started the Sunday afternoon race at Talladega Superspeedway, but then dropped to the back of the pack while waiting for the first opportunity presented itself during a round of pit stops under caution he was scrambling through the roof of the car and handing the wheel over to stand-by driver Brian Vickers.

There was nothing wrong - it was the game plan for the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing plan going into the weekend, a strategy that credits Hamlin with any points won by the ca for the rest of the day but also making sure that Hamlin doesn't exacerbate his spinal injury by trying a full return to racing too soon.

"I was enjoying it more than anything because it gave me something to do today," said Hamlin, who insisted that he hadn't found is frustrating to return to the car only to have to drop to the rear straight away. "I knew in my head that I wasn't going to be competing today. I wasn't going to be in the middle of the pack trying to make passes. It was all about just going through the motions and getting the process of making a comeback, getting that started.

"This is the first week of a comeback," he added. "This is going to be the start of everything so anything that Brian gets us for points today is strictly a
bonus and we're going to start next week in Darlington with our hairs on fire."

The driver change strategy was possible at Talladega because the 2.66-mile length of the track allowed Hamlin to get out of the car and Vickers to take over under caution without going a lap down in the process, which is what would have happened at a short track like Richmond International Raceway.

"The exchange went great. Really, that was about as smooth as it's went for us," said the 32-year-old. "That was about the quickest that I was able to get out so everything went well. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over for the next driver. Everything really went seamless and painless."

"In Talladega you've got four minutes and we could do it in under 60 seconds if we had to," added Vickers. "I think everyone was pretty calm about it. It went really smooth. Everybody did a great job, everybody did their part. It went as smooth as any one we did. We came out of the pits with a fast race car, drove all of the way to the top ten."

Unfortunately Vickers was then caught up in the lap 44 accident sparked by contact between Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne, meaning that the #11 only picked up five points for 34th place - a disappointingly limited return given all the time and effort that had gone into the manoeuvre. But at least Hamlin was safely out of the car and away from harm's way by then meaning that the wreck didn't set back his recovery. Hamlin was first on hand when the battered #11 limped its way to the garage, so that he could see the damage and check that Vickers was unhurt.




Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, gets in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron`s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2013 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota,comes to rest on pit road after a collision with Joey Logano (not pictured), driver of the #22 AAA Southern California Ford, during the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 24, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Driver Denny Hamlin looks on during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 7, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #11 FedEx Delivery Manager Toyota, and injured driver Denny Hamlin during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 27, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Brian Vickers replaces Denny Hamlin as driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron`s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 5, 2013 in Talladega, Alabama (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe`s Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
A view of the track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Crew chief Chad Knaus inspects the car of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, after a crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, crashes in the early part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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