NASCAR Talladega 2013: Hamlin cleared to return at Talladega

USA TODAY Sports

After missing four races with a back injury, Denny Hamlin has been medically cleared and will make his return this weekend at Talladega.

After getting medical clearance from his doctors, NASCAR has given Denny Hamlin the go-ahead to race this weekend at Talladega Super Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver suffered a compression fracture in his lower back in a last-lap crash March 24 at Auto Club Speedway. The injury has kept Hamlin out of the car for four races with Brian Vickers and Mark Martin filling in his absence.

JGR has not announced whether Hamlin will the run the entire race Sunday, but it is presumed Vickers will relieve him at some point. Last week at Richmond International Speedway, Hamlin said he would start the race and give way to a relief driver under the first caution.

By taking the green flag, Hamlin will collect all the points Vickers would earn for his finish. NASCAR is requiring Hamlin to practice Friday and qualify the car Saturday.

Having missed four races, Hamlin has fallen to 28th in the standings, 126 points behind 10th and 81 points behind 20th.

If he is to make the Chase for an eighth-straight season, Hamlin would either need to finish in the top ten in points -- unlikely considering how many races he's missed -- or finish somewhere in the top 20 in points and win enough races to claim one of the two wildcard spots.

The Sprint Cup Series travels to Darlington Raceway next week where Hamlin is hoping to run the entire race.

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