Denny Hamlin knows he’s likely making the Championship 4. All he needs to do is just be consistent this round. He entered it with 49 playoff points and currently sits +20 though entering Sunday’s race at the Texas Motor Speedway. In next weeks cutoff race at Martinsville, Hamlin has three top five finishes in his last four tries.
So, if he’s going to take at least one of the wildcard spots, if not the only wildcard spot to the final round to Phoenix in a couple of weeks, Texas is the key.
Hamlin, can afford another mulligan. He got that last Sunday in Kansas.
Hamlin, led the second most laps all day (58). He won the second stage. But, he got too high while battling for position during the final stage on Lap 180 and got into the Turn 4 SAFER barrier. He had to pit for right side damage as a result and would lost a couple of laps. He fell back to 28th after pitting for repairs.
Luckily for them, they didn’t panic. They knew more cautions would fly which would give them plenty of time to make up the lost ground. He took the wave around on Lap 199 and got back on the lead lap on Lap 220 caution for Tyler Reddick.
That allowed him to still finish 15th.
“Obviously, we damaged the car and at these tracks, you can’t have any damage on the car,” Hamlin said following his fifth finish of 12 or worse in seven playoff races. “I was fortunate to get a couple cautions there to get us back on the lead lap. That was as far as I could go with the damage that I had. It just hurt the FedEx Camry so bad. To finish 15th with that damage, that was the best we could possibly hope for.
“Still definitely had a race-winning car today. Just threw it in the fence.”
Hamlin, now sits +20 going to Texas next weekend. It’s weird that he’s only had two top 10’s all playoffs. But, you also have to look at the circumstances too. Hamlin, has had speed more times than not.
He was running third in the playoff opener at Darlington before getting run in the back of by Jimmie Johnson on his final stop for the Southern 500. He’d finish 13th. A week later in Richmond, he won a stage and had top five pace again but was speeding on pit road. He finished 12th. They didn’t have much in a 21st place result at Bristol.
The Round of 12 was much better. He was third in Vegas and won in Talladega. Hamlin, finished 15th on the ROVAL and now 15th after having a top two or three car again in Kansas.
“We can win every week,” Hamlin continued. “Every week, we’re up front. I think we can win next week. We can win the week after that and we can win the week after that. Not too worried about having to go out there and win because I know we can do it.”
He won the spring Texas race in 2019. His other four finishes around that race? 34th, 30th, 28th and 20th respectively.
That’s why he needs to change his trends at Texas and come away with a solid top 10 and live to make life easy on himself next Sunday in Martinsville.