Now that Denny Hamlin is dangerously close from being eliminated from Chase for the Championship contention, he has the option to stay behind the wheel of the No. 11 Toyota for the rest of the season to build momentum for 2014 or spend the rest of the season resting his sore back?
Hamlin said there’s only one option – keep driving. Hamlin missed four races after suffering a broken vertebra in a final-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. He’s winless and in 25th in the Sprint Cup Series standings with nine races to go before the playoffs – including Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
One way he can make the final cut for the Chase is to be in the top 10, and that’s nearly mathematically impossible. The other way is to be inside the top 20 and be one of two drivers with the most wins who aren’t already in the playoffs.
That means Hamlin not only needs to make up a 104-point deficit to 20th-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr., he still needs to win a couple races.
Until he’s officially eliminated, Hamlin said he won’t give up on make the Chase. And if that happens, he won’t take the rest of the season off.
“I definitely have to proceed on,” he said after crashing and finishing 35th last week at Kentucky Speedway. “We’re just going to try to win races and that’s what my job is for the rest of the year is to try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team.”
Hamlin crashed at Kentucky, triggering fear he might have aggravated his back. He was tested for a concussion and cleared Monday.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Matt Kenseth won a series-best fourth race last Sunday at Kentucky Speedway, but that doesn’t mean he’s content with his race car.
“From the start of the year, I’ll wait till the last race and I think you always have to improve, and you see the guys that win races on a regular basis, they are always doing that,” Kenseth said.
There’s a reason why Kenseth has some concern.
Although he has more wins than anyone else in the Sprint Cup Series, he’s also failed to finish three races.
“Just that, I mean, just got to keep working all the time and keep trying to get better,” he said. “Just because you’re great today doesn’t mean you’ll be great a month from now. You know, you are always trying to improve.”
PHOENIX RACING TO BE SOLD: After spending 24 years as a car owner, James Finch said he plans to sell the No. 51 Chevrolet after next week’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Finch hopes to complete a deal to sell the assets of his team, which includes a small shop in Spartanburg, S.C., to Harry Scott Jr., the co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.