TALLADEGA, Ala. -- 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.
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 Saturday'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.
Austin Dillon is set to start second with a lap of 54.359 followed by Trevor Bayne (54.387), Danica Patrick (54.447) and Justin Allgaier (54.450).
John Wes Townley's qualifying time was thrown out because his car failed pre-qualifying inspection. He will not race Saturday.
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Danica Patrick knows the importance of having the right equipment and aiming for the openings, however slender.
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.
She said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway that she wisely switched from high heels to flats for her trip onto the ice. Her other three shots went wide.
Patrick is hoping for more consistency in Sunday's Aaron's 499.
It's the first restrictor plate race since she became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps at the Daytona 500. She says that eighth-place finish might have hiked expectations for Talladega but that winning on the big speedways requires "a whole lot of luck."