Denny Hamlin will return to the No. 11 Toyota Camry of Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend at Talladega. It will be Hamlin’s first race back since suffering a compression fracture in his lower back at Auto Club Speedway on March 24.Hamlin
Hamlin tweeted on Tuesday that he was cleared “just to start,” the race at the biggest track on the circuit. The plan is for Hamlin to drop to the back of the field and stay out of trouble before turning the car over to relief driver Brian Vickers.
Vickers has driven the No. 11 car for the last three races of Hamlin’s absence. By starting the race Hamlin will collect any driver points for whatever finish Vickers earns.
Currently Hamlin is 28th in the driver standings, 71 points out of the top-20 which he must be inside to qualify for one of the two wild card spots based on wins.
UPDATE: Despite NASCAR.com running a story about Hamlin starting the race and the drivers comments, Denny Hamlin is not yet currently cleared to compete as of May 1. Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing must show that a specialist says Hamlin can compete in the race. It appears to be more of a formality then anything else.