TALLADEGA, Ala. – Denny Hamlin's return to the racetrack has ended safely and early.
Hamlin climbed out through the roof panel and let Brian Vickers take over in the No. 11 Toyota when the first caution came out after Trevor Bayne's blown engine Sunday.
The driver switch was swift enough that the team was able to stay on the lead lap.
Hamlin was cleared Thursday after missing four races with a compressed fracture of a vertebra in his lower back.
Before the race, crew chief Darian Grubb told him, "Buddy, good to have you back," then reiterated his plan.
Grubb told him, "We'll ride this out until we get a caution then come in and do a swap."