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And while Hamlin has at least one victory in each of the remaining four races, Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 represents the Virginia driver’s best opportunity to overhaul Keselowski.
In short, Hamlin is golden at the 0.525-mile track, finishing outside the top 10 just twice in 14 starts. Between spring of 2008 and fall 2010, he won four times and finished second once leading 796 laps. His Martinsville career average finish, 6.4, ranks second only to Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin’s Driver Rating (113.4) is third best.
Hamlin finished sixth in Martinsville’s spring race, fourth among drivers ultimately qualifying for the Chase. He led 31 laps and finished ahead of both Keselowski and Johnson.
A Martinsville victory was pivotal in Tony Stewart’s run to the 2011 title. Stewart entered the season’s seventh race 19 points behind leader Carl Edwards, cut the deficit to eight and predicted he had Edwards exactly where he wanted.
Hamlin’s current deficit? Twenty points. In other words, definitely doable.