By admin | January 13, 2013
By Richard Allen
Throughout the month of January, I will be running a series on the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the 2013 NASCAR season. The first eleven articles will be placed in no particular order but the final piece written in the series will be on the driver I am selecting as the favorite to win this year’s championship. Half of these pieces will be placed on my own RacingWithRich.com site and half will be placed on BleacherReport.com. Please consider following along on both websites and adding your own thoughts in the “comments” sections below each piece.
Denny Hamlin and his team have shown that they know how to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But unfortunately for this Joe Gibbs Racing team, they have not shown the ability to close out the NASCAR playoff with a championship.Hamlin began driving in the Sprint Cup division on a fulltime basis in 2006, and the Chesterfield, Virginia native has qualified for the Chase in every single season of his career.
In 2010, he came tantilizingly close to claiming the head seat at the season ending banquet when he fell just short of beating out Jimmie Johnson.
2012 was certainly a fruitful year for the No. 11 JGR team. Five wins and 17 top-10s provided plenty of reason to celebrate. However, Hamlin has made no secret of the fact that he badly wants a championship. So even with the successes last season brought, another Chase that did not produce a title had to feel somewhat less than satisfactory. Inconsistency within the Chase proved to be a detriment for Hamlin in 2012. He won in New Hampshire and placed 2nd in Charlotte and Phoenix but came home outside the top-15 in Chicago, Martinsville, Texas and Homestead.One thing Hamlin and his team will need to improve upon in 2013 is their hot and cold nature on certain tracks. There are five current tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit on which Hamlin has a career average finish within the top-10. However, there are seven tracks upon which his average finish is 18th or worse.
“It was a great year leading up to the Chase,” Hamlin told The Sporting News of his team’s 2012 performance. “We really got hot there in the middle-to-late summer. We obviously had high expectations because we were on a roll there for a while.
“Obviously we just didn’t keep it going. Back-to-back wins between Bristol and Atlanta (were highlights)—two tracks that I had come so close to winning and I finally did.”
In order to win the Sprint Cup under this ten race playoff format currently in use, there can’t be so many tracks at which a driver will points away. Consistency will prove the key to him finally fulfilling his goal of claiming a title.
Hamlin will continue to be a force this season, as he has since 2006. But can he take his game to the next level?
Denny Hamlin will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. But, he is not my pick to win the big trophy.
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