By admin | March 29, 2011
By Richard Allen
It’s too early to declare any team as in a desperate situation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but there are some who are nearing that point as the sixth race of the season in Martinsville approaches this weekend. One team that particularly must feel the pressure coming into this race on the Virginia half-mile track is that of Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin.
Over the most recent off-season NASCAR instituted a new points system that rewards 43 points for each race winner and one point less for each descending position with the opportunity for bonus points to be awarded. Unlike the old system, the new system does not lessen the blow of poor finishes by tapering the number of points received as a driver slips further down the finishing order. However, the new system does allow for drivers who have won races to potentially make the Chase for the Championship, even if not ranked highly enough in the standings at the cutoff point in Richmond.
After the 26th race of the season in Richmond the top-10 will make the championship playoff along with the two drivers who have won the most races but are not ranked in the top-10 of the standings.
Currently, Hamlin ranks 21st in the standings. He is 45 points behind 10th place Matt Kenseth in the race for the Chase. While that does not sound like very much ground to make up, it must be remembered that he is a full race worth of points behind the guaranteed transfer spot. Three finishes outside the top-20 have dropped the driver of car #11 to his current station.
The reason for urgency on this team in particular is that this week’s race in Martinsville is a pivotal one for them. Of all tracks, this is Hamlin’s most productive. He has scored four wins and ten top-10s in only eleven starts close to his Chesterfield, Virginia hometown.
Should Hamlin not be able to recover to the top-10 of the overall standings, he needs to score victories in order to capture one of those spots reserved for race winners. This track and Pocono, where he has also won four times, will provide his best opportunities to visit victory lane prior to the cutoff race in Richmond. If he is to compile wins this is a race he must take advantage of.
One troubling fact that adds to the #11 team’s situation going into one of their best tracks is the engine woes having been suffered so far by Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin himself called the JGR engine department out after falling from last week’s race in California.
Again, it is too early to declare any team out of contention. However, with a new points system there is no way to know for sure how things will play out. Just in case things don’t go his way elsewhere, Denny Hamlin needs very much to cease this opportunity before him and chalk up a win. The pressure is on.
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