So far, NASCAR’s new Chase format has lead to a lot of excitement both on and off the track. On the track, wrecks and mechanical failures have flipped the point standings upside down and two brawls led to fireworks after two of the Chase races. This Sunday’s race should be no different as the last eight Chase contenders, including Denny Hamlin, will vie for the four spots in the next championship round in Homestead on November 16.
Hamlin, who is second in points going into Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 in Phoenix, will lead the field after winning the pole in qualifying. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hamlin set a speed of 142.113 mph during qualifying on the one-mile track at Phoenix International Raceway. Hamlin won the race at PIR in 2012, so his experience there, plus his momentum may help punch is ticket for the Sprint Cup Championship race.
Hamlin will have to beat some of the other Chase drivers who have experience winning at PIR, but who need to win to get into the last race of the season. Kevin Harvick has won there four times, while Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon all have wins in Phoenix too.
Hamlin, along with Joey Logano, only needs to finish 11th or better in the race to get into the race for the Cup championship. Ryan Newman, who currently is in third, needs to finish ninth or better. The remaining field of contenders, which includes Harvick, four-time Sprint Cup Champion Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Edwards, and Kenseth will need a win to make sure they get into the championship round, which could lead to a wild race.
USA Today reported that Hamlin was taken by surprise that his No. 11 Fedex Toyota managed to win the pole. He had run the most laps out of the 12 drivers in the final round of qualifying, but managed to post the speed needed to nab the Coors Light Pole.
“I feel great (for Sunday). We’ve got it in our car. We’ve just got to get it for 312 laps now. Definitely out of the blue. Didn’t think we had a pole-winning car by any means.”
After last Sunday’s race in Texas, bad blood between Gordon and Keselowski could add to the stress of making it into the Chase for the contenders. As The Inquisitr reported, punches were thrown after the race when Keselowski sideswiped Gordon and cut down his tire. Gordon have been running in second when Keselowski made a move to try and take over the race lead.
Hamlin, who was not involved in the Texas incident, did chase Keselowski into the garage after the second race in the contender round at Charlottesville on October 12. Hamlin was spun by Keselowski after the checkered flag had been thrown in the race. However, the Chase contenders will have to try to put aside the drama in order to concentrate on making it to Homestead to race for NASCAR’s top prize.
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