NASCAR at Martinsville After Thoughts: Hamlin Wins and Pulls Within Six Points of Jimmie Johnson

Denny Hamlin won Chase race #6 and, interestingly enough, pulled within six points of points leader Jimmie Johnson in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. He entered into the weekend saying he wanted to start on the pole, (which he did), lead the most laps, (which he didn’t) and win the race (which he did.)  When all was said and done for the day at Martinsville, some in the top twelve were better off and some were much further behind than when the day started.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick both pulled closer to Jimmie Johnson in points and at least for those top three, it is becoming a tight race for the Championship. The two of them continue to make it an interesting Chase and both look to be the ones to end the #48’s consecutive Championships at four. Both Hamlin and Harvick manage to finish near the front each week even though at times it looks like they’re going to finish nearer to the back. If nothing happens differently for the top three, I expect to see the three of them fighting for the Cup when things wind down at Homestead in four weeks, although I’m not quite sure what order they will be in when they get there.

The only other one still within striking distance for the Chase at the moment is Kyle Bush but he is 172 points behind the leader. Unfortunately for him, it will take the top three having disastrous weeks at more than Talladega this coming weekend and him finishing strongly ahead of the field over the next few weeks. He will want to win poles, lead the most laps and win a couple of races, hoping the top three have overwhelming complications to really make it interesting by the time the Chase does reach Homestead.

With all the developments at RPM last week and along with Kasey Kahne suddenly moving to the Red Bull #83 team, it appeared to this fan we might not hear much from Kasey for a while. Actually, he finished a very respectable 14th on the day and I am sure had mixed emotions for the day. It does appear he has moved on and will be ready for next season. There is still some uncertainty about Richard Petty Motorsports and how they are going to come out of this situation. As a long time fan of NASCAR, I do hope the best for them.

The Hendrick teams did have three finish in the top ten, but two of them aren’t actually in the Chase this year. Mark Martin finished second, even after having a slight meeting with the wall early in the race and Dale Earnhardt Jr ran strong on the day and finished seventh. He and his fans were ecstatic as he led for 90 laps. It should prove to be interesting how he does this coming weekend in Talladega. After all, it is a well known fact he runs very well at restrictor plate races and his performance at Martinsville just might give him and his team some momentum and hope for a good performance at the last restrictor plate race for 2010.

Jeff Gordon had a bad day for the third week in a row (with a little help from Kurt Bush in the #2 Penske Dodge.) I admit, one of the three races didn’t turn out as bad as the others, but the last two have been killers for the #24 team. He has lost a bunch of points to the leaders and sits 203 points behind at fifth place only 10 points ahead of Carl Edwards and only 33 points ahead of Tony Stewart. Unless the #24 team hits a really hot streak, this fan thinks this year’s drive for Jeff’s fifth Cup Championship is over. (Oh well, there’s always next year… Right?)

Personally, I think the field is pretty much set for the showdown at Homestead in four weeks. I don’t hold out much hope even for Kyle Bush to really make a move closer to the top three, unless something at Talladega catches all three of the top runners up in it and doesn’t touch the rest. Still yet, it should prove to be very interesting how the next couple of races go. Kevin Harvick won at Talladega in April and hopes to do the same this coming weekend.

Of course, restrictor plate racing is one of the hardest races to call, simply because so many cars seem to stay in the main pack. I know several drivers are going to Talladega now that Martinsville is done, hoping to take home a win and more than a couple are quite capable of doing so. Unfortunately, the top three in points are quite capable of winning at a restrictor plate track also and that just means this coming weekend is going to be a make it break it weekend for those in fourth to twelfth.

Since at the moment, the top three are only racing each other, I do expect to see some defensive driving going on by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, but, I do expect to see those other nine drivers in the Chase pressing the envelope to try and make up some points and get back into the hunt for the Chase…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 26, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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