Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Martinsville, Virginia today. It was Denny’s 7th won of the year, but more importantly he gained points on point’s leader Jimmie Johnson and not trails the #48 team by just 6 points. That makes the Chase for the Sprint Cup a likely four person affair, as 4th place Kyle Busch is now 172 points behind Johnson. In most realities the chase is not between Jimmie, Denny, and Kevin Harvick in third 62 points back. Of course the Wild Card chase race is next, the nearly unpredictable Talladega.
There is no way to tell what will happen at the largest of the NASCAR tracks as restrictor plates keep the field in a tight bunch and a big wreck awaits around every lap to reach out and grab half the field. In their careers Jimmie Johnson has a 17.8 average finish at the big track, Denny’s is 21.20 and Harvick has a 20.8 career average there. Of the three I would have to call Harvick the favorite, as he won the spring race there.
This is putting Johnson and the #48 bunch is some odd territory. Sure the have won the last four Chases, but the #48 team not only has to worry about Denny but Harvick as well. In the past we have seen this team go very conservative in this race, just trying to secure a good finish. That might b the plan again but Jimmie will need a top ten finish to reestablish a secure point’s lead.
This may be setting up as the best Chase for the Championship that NASCAR has ever seen. Of course we will need to see how Talladega shuffles out before we can truly say that.
•MTR Auto Racing