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Brian Vickers OK after hard wreck at Daytona during Sprint Unlimited

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Stewart substitute driver Brian Vickers was in a hard accident but able to walk away from the damage Saturday night during the exhibition Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

Vickers had a right rear tire go flat on the 23rd lap of the 75-lap event. He clipped Dale Earnhardt Jr., and then turned right into Kevin Harvick. Both the front end and rear of his car was damaged from the contact with the other cars and the wall.

"It was a hard hit," Vickers said. "That's part of racing. ... I feel fine."

Vickers was evaluated and released from the infield care center. He finished 24th in the 25-car field. Denny Hamlin won, giving Joe Gibbs Racing its fourth Unlimited victory in the past five years.

Vickers, who has three wins in 318 career Sprint Cup starts, had not competed since March after being sidelined for the fourth time because of the recurrence of blood clots and related surgeries. The 32-year-old Vickers is substituting at least through the Daytona 500 and likely for more races as Stewart recovers from back surgery, which could lead him to miss the next two to three months.

"I felt great out there," Vickers said. "They didn't cut me any slack. I was sideways on Lap 1, but it was fun. It felt great to be back in a race car."

The cars of Vickers, Harvick and Clint Bowyer were damaged beyond repair. Vickers had some slight door contact with other cars earlier in the race.

"I don't know how I cut the tire," Vickers said. "I had a little contact. Everybody was racing hard. It's the Sprint Unlimited, right?"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.