After missing the last four races with injuries suffered in a horrific crash, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Denny Hamlin has been cleared to return to "on-track activities," Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Thursday.
Hamlin, who sustained a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident with Joey Logano on March 24 at Fontana, has said that despite falling in the standings (he is currently 28th in points), he intends to compete for one of the two wild-card spots to get into the Chase. The two drivers sitting 11th to 20th with the most wins qualify for the Chase.
Brian Vickers has been driving the No. 11 FedEx Toyota in Hamlin's absence, and it is believed he will be in the driver's seat again this weekend at Talladega if Hamlin is unable to go. As for Hamlin's status for the actual race on Sunday, JGR said that remains unsettled.
"Exact plans for this weekend will be determined by the team at Talladega," the team said in a statement.