By admin | June 3, 2013
By Richard Allen
Things started off great for Denny Hamlin this past weekend at the Dover International Speedway. The driver who just recently came back from a serious injury earned the pole position for the FedEx 400 and bolted to the early lead on the high banked oval. However, things did not end nearly so well for the Virginia native.
As has been well documented, Hamlin must win at least one race(possibly more)Â and get himself inside the top-20 of the Sprint Cup standings to be inÂ position to receive one of two wildcard spots and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Had he won on Sunday, he would have moved much closer to that ultimate goal.
Unfortunately forÂ the driver and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, that is not what happened. Hamlin did lead 41 laps and ran inside the top-5 for much of the day. But on lap 378 of the 400 lap event, a right front tire gave way and sent his Toyota hard into the turn one wall. His day was done at that point and he was relegated to a 34th finishing position.
Hamlin is now 26th in the Sprint Cup standings, 74 points behind 20th place Ryan Newman. That is a lot of ground to be made up over 13 races.
And to make matters worse for Hamlin, the Dover race was won by another driver who will possibly have to rely on a wildcard invitation to make the ten-race playoff. Tony Stewart came into the event with his own set of struggles. He had not scored a single top-5 finish all season and was mired well back in the standings.
Stewart earning a win now means that a driver ranked ahead of Hamlin in the standings has a leg up on one of those wildcards. Should another driver who sits somewhere between 11th and 20th in the standings get a win in the near future, Hamlin’s chances of making the Chase would be in serious jeopardy. And there are plenty of drivers(Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex) who are capable of winning.
For Denny Hamlin to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he is going to need a nearly flawless next 13 races. Fortunately for him, the series is about to head for one of his better tracks in Pocono. But no matter where the races take place, he cannot afford any more of these worst case scenarios.
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