When Denny Hamlin returned in May from a four-race hiatus to heal his back, questions ran rampant regarding whether his time off created too large of a chasm for him to climb out of before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup reset the field for the postseason. With eight races remaining before that day arrives, the answer is that he must start winning races now.
If Hamlin is going to climb into Chase Wild Card contention, his best shot at winning might be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In 14 starts at the 1.058-mile track, he’s won twice, most recently last September. He has seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, and has only finished outside the top 15 once. He could have – and maybe should have – swept last year, leading 150 of the 301 laps last July and finished second to Kasey Kahne.
Among active drivers at New Hampshire, Hamlin has the best average finish (7.9) and has led the third-most laps (417). His driver rating (104.8) ranks fourth among active drivers.
In order to win, he’ll need to overcome his recent four-race slump in which he’s finished 30th, 23rd, 35th and 36th. Even if he wins , Hamlin still has his work cut out for him. He is in 26th place, 122 points behind Paul Menard in 20th place – the magic number for Chase Wild Card consideration. The two drivers from 11th-20th with the most wins will earn a Wild Card spot.