Denny Hamlin says he’ll be back at Talladega

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Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin will return to Sprint Cup action this Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, but he is expected not to run the full race. Hamlin has been sidelined since suffering a compression fracture in his lower back following a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway last month, but the Virginia racer tweeted this morning that he has been cleared to start the Aaron’s 499 at NASCAR’s biggest track.

“I can not wait to get back in car.. The smell of fuel and tires Ahhh,” Hamlin tweeted later on.

Going into last weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway, Hamlin indicated that his doctors were okay with him starting the Talladega event before handing over the car to his substitute driver, Brian Vickers.

Such a switch can be done under yellow without losing a lap at Talladega thanks to its 2.66-mile length, and because Hamlin will start the race, he’ll earn all the points that Vickers collects with his finish. Hamlin has fallen to 28th in the Sprint Cup standings as a result of his injury, and is targeting a full return to action at Darlington Raceway on May 11.

Vickers’ name is currently listed as driver of Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing machine on the Talladega entry list.

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.