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Cody McMahan of Chilhowie finishes 12 in the ARCA race at Talladega.
Driver Denny Hamlin sits in his car as he prepares to practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Talladega Superspeedway on Friday. Hamlin has been cleared by NASCAR to drive this week at Talladega following an injury he suffered at California.
Friday, May 3, 2013
TALLADEGA, Ala. - 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 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 said 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."
Hamlin was supposed to get out of the car in his return race at Phoenix after knee surgery three years ago. But he stuck it out to prove something to his team because he was injured playing basketball and felt he owed it to his crew to fight through the pain.
"I felt like I had put my team in a very bad spot by getting hurt outside of racing," he said. "I stayed in to tell them basically that I was sorry and I was going to do whatever I could for them. That hurt worse than what this does in the race car."
There's no pain this time around, he said, and the only discomfort is when he actually gets out of the car. To alleviate that, the Joe Gibbs Racing team has taken the option of using a roof hatch and Hamlin is using it to exit the car.
He practiced the driver exchange with Vickers on Friday and twice did it in just over a minute - fast enough to ensure the car would remain on the lead lap if they swapped under caution.
Hamlin goes forward this week balancing risk versus reward and the challenge ahead. He is 28th in the standings and needs to climb to 20th in the Sprint Cup standings to be eligible to claim one of two wild-card slots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
He'll earn the points Sunday if he starts the race.
Patrick scores in her Blackhawks appearance
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Danica Patrick knows the importance of having the right equipment and aiming for the openings, however slender.
It works in NASCAR and IndyCar, and it's not a bad strategy for hockey either.
Patrick scored on her first try during a "Shoot the Puck" promotion at intermission of Tuesday night's first-round playoff game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.
Accessories do matter.
"I was wearing heels when I arrived to the Blackhawks game," Patrick said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, where she qualified fourth for the Nationwide Series race. "At the last second I intelligently grabbed a pair of flats so I'm glad I did that.
"I didn't really understand what I was going to have to do out there. When I realized I was going to be like really trying to score and hit the puck into the goal I thought, you know what, I better give myself the best chance possible. I put those flats on and tried a couple of shots in the back just on concrete floor. They gave me some advice on how to hit it and luckily that very first one went in."
Pastrana captures first career Nationwide pole
TALLADEGA, Ala. - X Games star Travis Pastrana won his first career pole on the Nationwide Series at Talladega Superspeedway.
The 10-time X Games gold medalist-turned-NASCAR driver starts up front in today's Aaron's 312 after posting the fastest qualifying time of 54.255 on Friday on the 2.66-mile tri-oval.
Pastrana called it "a dream come true."
It's his second Top 10 start in only 17 Nationwide races. He also secured the first Nationwide pole at Talladega Superspeedway for owner Jack Roush.
Chilhowie driver finishes 12th
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Veteran ARCA Racing Series star Frank Kimmel won Friday's rain-shortened event at Talladega Superspeedway, giving him his 77th career victory in the series.
Kimmel is now two wins away from tying all-time leader Iggy Katona.
Cody McMahan of Chilhowie was on the lead lap when the race was called on Lap 73 and finished 12th.
Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell finished in 28th place.
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