By admin | September 20, 2011
By Richard Allen
One driver has all but been eliminated from serious contention for the Sprint Cup championship after only one race in the ten race playoff. And that driver is the one who finished last season as the series runner-up.
There were a few drivers and teams who appeared to limp into the 2011 Chase rather than storm in. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Denny Hamlin were hanging on to their qualifying spots by their fingernails over the course of the final few ‘regular season’ races. But of those three drivers, Stewart and Earnhardt made the most of their playoff opportunity in Chicago and scored top finishes.
Unfortunately for him, Hamlin did not. After an unscheduled pit stop early in the first Chase race and a late race run-in with Greg Biffle, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 car found himself finishing in the lowly 31st position.
Due to the fact that he was a wildcard qualifier for the Chase, Hamlin received no bonus points for his one early season victory. Thus, he started out somewhat in a hole from the beginning.
His poor result in Chicago merely dug that hole deeper. As a matter of fact, the hole is so deep Hamlin will likely not be able to climb out. Currently, Hamlin is last among the Chase drivers, 41 points behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Under the new points system, he is essentially a full race behind with only nine events remaining.
His position might not seem so dire had Hamlin and his team performed better throughout the 2011 season. However, a myriad of issues and incidents have cropped up this year that did not appear nearly so often as in 2010 when this driver finished in the 2nd spot of the overall standings.
The combination of not running well and scoring a terrible finish in the first playoff outing have likely doomed Denny Hamlin’s title chances before he really even got started.
So, just like on an old television game show, Hamlin may pick up his parting gifts as he leaves the game. Those gifts include the right to say that he qualified for the Chase which is now apparently considered somewhat of a gold standard in NASCAR racing.
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