Once more – with feeling.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 provides four winners from a season ago a final opportunity to extend their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winning streaks. Otherwise, they’ll start anew in 2014.
Denny Hamlin’s run of seven consecutive seasons with at least one victory is the longest stretch in jeopardy. He’ll long remember – but likely prefer to forget – the campaign drawing to a close this weekend in South Florida. Injured in March at Auto Club Speedway while battling for the win with Joey Logano, Hamlin sat out the next four races. A finish of second in his first, full-race return at Darlington sparked hopes of a miraculous charge into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
It didn’t happen. From June in Michigan through the close of the regular season, Hamlin could finish no higher than 18th. He qualified second and led the first 18 laps of Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway but wound up 28th – unfortunately for Hamlin, just about par for 2013.
Joining Hamlin on the winless hot seat are two drivers who qualified for the Chase and one – Marcos Ambrose – who didn’t. Both of Ambrose’s wins came at Watkins Glen International. The Australian has yet to win on an oval.
Clint Bowyer has a string of three winning campaigns that include his most recent victory a year ago September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bowyer’s come close, finishing second at Richmond and Martinsville. He was third at the latter track in last month’s Chase race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a four-race drought in June 2012 at Michigan International Speedway but has gone 56 races without a return visit to Victory Lane. Not that Earnhardt hasn’t tantalized his legions of fans, finishing second five times with three of those performances coming in the post season.