Denny Hamlin runs 16 laps at Talladega - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Denny Hamlin runs 16 laps at Talladega

Posted: Updated:
NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver Denny Hamlin during practice at Talladega Superspeedway Friday. (abc3340.com) NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver Denny Hamlin during practice at Talladega Superspeedway Friday. (abc3340.com)

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

Hamlin insisted he'll again give Vickers the car at some point Sunday 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 to get back in the car this weekend and said doctors gave him permission to run the entire race.

He said his intention was to "take a knee" after the start by getting out of the car during a caution and allowing Vickers to finish the race. That slightly contradicted crew chief Darian Grubb, who said earlier Friday they'd play race-day by ear and see how the race flows.

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 night, unable to sleep because he was so anxious to get back in his firesuit, back into his race car and back onto the track.

"If it wasn't for my crew chief, I would have ran it out of gas," he said of his only run Friday. "I just wanted to feel speed again. We're competitors and when you see the people on TV in other sports fighting through injuries to come back to the field or the court, we feel that same thing. We have alligator blood. I don't know what to say. We're a different breed. We're willing to throw caution to the wind just to get back to what we are doing."

His return drew mixed reactions in the garage.

Race car driving by nature is dangerous and every day on the job has its risks. Now Hamlin is coming back from a serious injury that not everyone would treat the same.

"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 OK to get back in the car, he's going to do it whether he's sore or whatever the case is. We'd do it even if it didn't pay anything. It's just the nature of the beast."

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

"You have to take yourself out of that and understand what the dangers are, what the risks are and if you re-injure yourself, can that be life-threatening or something that ends your career," he said. "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. I might not come back from that just because, is it worth it?

"For Denny, I think it's worth it for him to really take his time and do it right. What he's doing this weekend, to me that makes sense. It's Talladega, there's ways to avoid those incidents," Gordon said. "I'll be interested to see if he gets out or stays in there. If I know Denny, he's going to have a hard time getting out. Sounds like he is ready to go."

  • Auburn University SportsMore>>

  • Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:33:03 GMT
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.More >>
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.
    More >>
  • CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:22:20 GMT
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
  • Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:37:43 GMT
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
  • All other Local CollegesMore>>

  • Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:38 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:38:39 GMT
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
  • Alabama State, Southern favorites in SWAC

    Alabama State, Southern favorites in SWAC

    Friday, July 18 2014 5:11 PM EDT2014-07-18 21:11:55 GMT
    Defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Southern and Alabama State are the favorites to win their divisions.More >>
    Defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Southern and Alabama State are the favorites to win their divisions.
    More >>
  • JSU football picked by media to win OVC championship

    JSU football picked by media to win OVC championship

    Friday, July 18 2014 4:08 PM EDT2014-07-18 20:08:13 GMT
    Jacksonville State is picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship by media covering the league.More >>
    Jacksonville State is picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship by media covering the league.
    More >>