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 Harvickâ€™s chances, Johnson is not nearly so dominate at the massive Alabama track.
Harvick is 77 points behind Johnsonâ€™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.
Harvickâ€™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.
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