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« Only Hamlin and Harvick remain with a shot at Johnson | Main | Did Yarborough’s failure to attend when Johnson tied his record hurt his Hall bid? »

Next two weeks are crucial for Hamlin and Harvick

By admin | October 18, 2010



By Richard Allen

If either Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick is to dethrone Jimmie Johnson in 2010 the next two weeks will serve as a deciding factor for each driver.

Hamlin has proven that he can get the job done at the Martinsville Speedway, where the Sprint Cup Series will compete this weekend. He has compiled three wins and nine top-10s in only ten starts on the tiny Virginia facility. Those statistics include winning the last two races held there.

Hamlin currently sits 41 points behind Johnson in second place of the Sprint Cup standings. This week represents a must in terms of making up some or all of that ground on the four time defending champion. If the Virginia native is to move around his rival he needs to make a move on his best statistical track. This chance will only come once and the Joe Gibbs Racing team must take advantage.

The trouble is, Martinsville is not exactly a stumbling block for Johnson. As a matter of fact, it is one of his best tracks. He has won six times and has an average finish of 5.4 on the tight half-mile. So, even if Hamlin dominates the 500 lap event this Sunday he may only make a minimal gain.

For as much as Hamlin needs to make up ground this weekend in Martinsville, the same can be said for Harvick the next weekend in Talladega. And better for Harvick’s chances, Johnson is not nearly so dominate at the massive Alabama track.

Harvick is 77 points behind Johnson’s total.

The four time champion has won only once at Talladega with seven top-10s in seventeen attempts. He has an average finish of 17.8 there, which is his worst on active speedways.

Harvick’s fortunes have been better at Talladega, where he won in April, and its sister track in Daytona Beach. The Earnhardt-Childress Engines combination has been the hot ticket on those restrictor plate tracks of late, having claimed each of the three events held on those tracks this season.

The bottom line for both drivers is that they must make something happen over the course of the next two weeks. If not, a fifth consecutive Johnson championship is all but a foregone conclusion.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

One Response to “Next two weeks are crucial for Hamlin and Harvick”

  1. Marybeth Says:
    October 19th, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    “Rumblings on a possible crew chief change for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.;” from Tom Bowles on Frontstretch today. I have said it before & I say it again, I do not believe that Jr. will be competitve as long as he is at HMS, it does not matter who the cc is. Sat. night JJ & MM had brand new cars. Jr.’s car was the first one Lance built for him in July, 2009. Get out and away from Rick now, Jr., and don’t look back. I no longer care how much it costs you.

    “28. RacingDmp said: Oct 16, 2010 at 3:24 PM Fixing to go to the track, great race last night, chilly here. Did anyone catch what Andy Petree (an accomplished cup crew chief) said about Lance’s call last week to leave Jr out on 30 lap old tire’s after staying out, leading a lap under yellow, and the field comming in for fresh rubber (and Jr’s asking Lance what do you mean stay out?). I think the exact words were “I just dont understand that call, Thats a NO BRAINER!” well welcome to the club Andy!”
    I believe Lance did what he had to do. If Jr. wins a race or finishes in the top ten, Rick will fire Lance. He usually manages to screw up the last pit stop, but people are catching on…so to outsmart all of us he just skipped the last pit stop all together. Rather smart of him really. He still has his job. :)