By JENNA FRYER, Associated Press
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Joe Gibbs Racing planned to run Denny Hamlin just a short time in Friday's practice session at Talladega Superspeedway.
Hamlin was scheduled to get back in the race car for the first time since suffering a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap crash at California on March 24. He has missed four races.
"We're going to practice as little as we can," crew chief Darian Grubb said. "We'll see how he feels, and give NASCAR a chance to make sure he's not erratic and not dizzy in the car. I'm sure NASCAR is also going to want to do an ingress and egress test and see him get in and out of the car with his helmet on. But we're really just going to let him get in the car to shake it down and see how he feels."
Grubb then wants Brian Vickers to do one short run to check the mirrors and get some seat time in the No. 11 Toyota.
The team won't know until Sunday how long Hamlin will be in the car. He could run the entire race, or he could start and get out at some point and turn the car over to Vickers, who filled in for him at Texas, Kansas and Richmond. Mark Martin drove for Hamlin at Martinsville.
Teams typically don't run many laps in practice at Talladega, where track time is generally used for systems checks before qualifying. But NASCAR is requiring Hamlin turn some laps in order to be eligible to race on Sunday.
With a threat of rain looming Friday, Grubb said his crew did have one eye on the weather radar.