Denny Hamlin has been given medical clearance to start in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega, though he is highly unlikely to complete the event.
Under NASCAR regulations, drivers who start a race but hand over to a relief driver during the event are still eligible for all the points their car scores. Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing team said the exact plan for the Talladega race would be determined during the event.
Brian Vickers has stood in for Hamlin in recent rounds, and would be available to take the car over if required.
Hamlin sustained a fractured vertebrae in a heavy crash at Fontana at the end of March, triggered by contact with Joey Logano as they fought for victory on the last lap. The initial expectation was that he would be sidelined for six weeks. He had hoped to return last weekend at Richmond, but his recovery had not made sufficient progress.
During his absence, Hamlin has fallen from 10th to 28th in the points standings.