By admin | October 27, 2012
By Richard Allen
After Sunday’s NASCAR event in Martinsville there will only be three races remaining on the Sprint Cup schedule which means it’s make or break time for any drivers who might be hanging on the edge of contention for the 2012 Chase for the Championship title. Two such drivers are Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer and the stakes could not be higher for this pair of Toyota campaigners if they are to have a shot at the big trophy going forward.
Hamlin enters this weekend in 3rd place of the overall standings, 20 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski and 13 points behind five time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Bowyer currently sits 4th in points, 25 markers in back of the front runner.
Hamlin has a stellar record on the half-mile facility located in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of southern Virginia. In fourteen starts here, the Chesterfield, Virginia native has amassed four victories, nine top-5s and twelve top-10s. His average finishing position is an astounding 6.4, which is his best among the tracks on which the Sprint Cup cars compete twice per season.
In a race in which Denny Hamlin must do well to keep his championship hopes alive, he could not ask for a better venue on which to compete. Being close to home on one of his best tracks certainly ought to put this Joe Gibbs Racing driver in a comfort zone, even considering that he is under the pressure of having to perform well or miss another chance to be crowned champion.
While Bowyer has not enjoyed the same degree of success at Martinsville as has Hamlin, the Emporia, Kansas driver has had his moments on the relatively flat oval. In thirteen starts here, the former dirt racer has earned one top-5 and seven top-10s on the historic track.
But perhaps most notably for Bowyer at Martinsville was the fact that he was very much in contention to win here earlier this spring in his first ever attempt driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.
After a late race yellow flag waved to set up a green/white/checkered finish, Bowyer found himself on the inside of the second row for the the restart but the first car with fresh tires. The two Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had stayed on track during the caution despite being on old tires and very close on fuel mileage. The #15 Toyota certainly appeared to be in prime position to steal a victory.
Bowyer made a bold three wide attempt to take the lead that resulted in the two HMS cars spinning and collecting a number of others, including Bowyer. What looked like a potential win had turned just a quickly into a 10th place run. Nonetheless, after qualifying 4th, this driver and team had shown they could win at Martinsville. They will need to show that again this weekend.
For both Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer, it’s now or never this Sunday in Martinsville. One comes into the race with a proven record of success on the track while the other comes in having shown he can contend here and also on a hot streak after scoring recent wins in Richmond and Charlotte. If either is to have a shot at being crowned the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, the road to that title must begin in Virginia.
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