Can Toyota really get shutout of the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Cup Series this year? There’s a path for that to happen if Denny Hamlin falls below Brad Keselowski in the standings and either of the three Chevrolet drivers left steal a win in Sunday’s Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway.
But, will that realistically happen?
I know the finishes haven’t necessarily been eye opening anymore for Hamlin or Martin Truex Jr., but maybe it’s luck, not lack of speed, that’s put them where they are.
Hamlin, only has one win over his last 10 races on the season and just four top fives in that same span. But, where I’m not necessarily concerned about him is, he had speed in the races that he didn’t necessarily have good finishes.
He was in third in the opening playoff race at Darlington before getting ran over while trying to get to pit road for his final stop of the Southern 500. He missed pit lane and would lose 10 spots and finish 13th. He had a top three car all night prior.
A week later, he won a stage in Richmond but was speeding on pit road and lost track position. He’d finish 12th instead. At Bristol, he knew that he was already into the Round of 12 so they just got by.
In the Round of 12, he had a top five car in Vegas before the late caution flipped the field. He won at Talladega and was 15th on the ROVAL, but again, he knew that he had to just get by.
This round, he led a ton of laps in Kansas and had a top five car before getting into the wall in the final stage. He was ninth at Texas but got crash damage early.
Moral of the story here, Hamlin has had a top five car all playoffs, just didn’t have the finishes to reflect that.
Same for Truex.
He was 22nd in the Southern 500 but that’s because he crashed with Chase Elliott while battling for the lead with 14 to go. He was runner-up in Richmond and 24th at Bristol. In the Round of 12, he was fourth in Vegas, 23rd at Talladega and seventh on the ROVAL.
Newsflash, he’s never good at Bristol and Talladega and had race winning pace in the other four races.
That took us to now. He started last in each of the two Round of 8 races and brought his No. 19 Toyota home in the top 10 in each. He was runner-up this past Thursday in Texas.
So, the speed is there too.
Now, can they show it off Sunday in Martinsville?
Truex, has won each of the last two races on the .526-mile paperclip while Hamlin has three top five finishes in his last four starts there.
I don’t think they get shutout, I think they can get both in and take half of the Championship 4 spots instead.