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Last updated: May 03. 2013 11:44PM - 1464 Views

AP PHOTODenny Hamlin sits in his car as he prepares for practice Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday. Hamlin has been cleared by NASCAR to drive this week at Talladega following an injury he suffered at California.
AP PHOTODenny Hamlin sits in his car as he prepares for practice Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday. Hamlin has been cleared by NASCAR to drive this week at Talladega following an injury he suffered at California.
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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 today’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. His sponsorship was moved to Jeff Green’s car so he could race Saturday.



TALLADEGA, Ala. — 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.”


His return drew mixed reactions in the garage.


Race car driving by nature is dangerous and every day on the job has its risks. Now Hamlin is coming back from a serious injury that not everyone would treat the same.


“This is how we make a living,” Clint Bowyer said. “You’ve got to put food on the table and we’re all in the same boat. We’re all given a wonderful opportunity to get paid doing what we love to do, so anytime a racer is OK to get back in the car, he’s going to do it whether he’s sore or whatever the case is. We’d do it even if it didn’t pay anything. It’s just the nature of the beast.”


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