The goal at Talladega Superspeedway was to get Denny Hamlin a chance to turn some laps and collect some points.
He accomplished one of his two goals Sunday.
Hamlin successfully returned from a compression fracture in a vertebra in his lower back by turning 23 laps Sunday before getting out of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for replacement driver Brian Vickers. The swap was made during the first caution, with Hamlin climbing out through a roof hatch and Vickers sliding in through the window quickly enough to keep the No. 11 on the lead lap.
Hamlin then sat on the pit road wall watching the cars circle by, eager to see what Vickers could do in what's expected to be his last time in Hamlin's car. He missed four races since the accident at California last month but is due to run the full race next weekend at Darlington.
''It was all about just going through the motions and getting the process of making a comeback, getting that started,'' Hamlin said. ''This is the first week of a comeb...