Motorsports roundup: Denny Hamlin runs 16 laps at Talladega; Pastrana earns first Nationwide pole

Posted Friday, May. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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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 again 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 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.”

Pastrana captures first Nationwide pole

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.

Kurt Busch to test Indy car

Kurt Busch will test an Indy car for Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week.

The 2004 NASCAR champion was at Indy this week testing tires for Goodyear with NASCAR team Furniture Row Racing. An agreement was apparently made with Michael Andretti to return next Thursday and turn laps at the famed speedway two days before the track opens for Indianapolis 500 practice.

NHRA qualifying postponed

Rain forced NHRA officials to postpone qualifying Friday for the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia.

Only eight Pro Stock cars were able to make runs before consistent showers returned to the track northeast of Atlanta. Rickie Jones topped the drivers who finished with a pass of 6.596 seconds at 210.11 mph.

Patrick aiming for different type goal at ’Dega

Danica Patrick knows the importance of having the right equipment and aiming for the openings, however slender.

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.”

It was the first Blackhawks game at United Center for Patrick, a native of Roscoe, Ill., about 90 minutes from Chicago. She said she attended one for a promotional appearance in St. Louis.

Besides the sensible shoes, Patrick was wearing a No. 10 Blackhawks jersey with her name on the back.

That first attempt went through one of three slots in a board placed before the net. Her next three went wide left, wide right and left again.

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.”

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