BACK-TO-BACK WINS FOR DENNY HAMLIN
Carl Edwards may have literally seen his Championship hopes go up in smoke when his engine expired on Lap 264 at Atlanta. Edwards will need to win at Richmond and then get some help to make this year's Chase for The NASCAr Sprint Cup field (photo courtesy: Wesley Hitt, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Denny Hamlin outran Jeff Gordon on a green-white-checkered finish to win his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contest after winning at Atlanta--Race 25 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
"I wanted this one real bad," said Hamlin. "The car faded a little bit, but the pit crew won me that race. That's what a championship team is all about. This year, I think we have it all.
“First, I wanted to win to be the No. 1 seed. Second is that was going to knock my teammate out of the Chase, and we couldn't afford that. I'm a Joe Gibbs blood guy for life. We need Kyle (Busch) in there, and if Jeff won that race, it was going to be all over."
Hamlin posted his fourth win of the season and moved to the top of the Chase seedings with the start of the Chase For The Sprint Cup only two weeks away. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Following Sunday’s race in Atlanta, ten drivers are locked in, leaving just two open spots and eight drivers with a chance at racing their way into the “playoffs.” Six of the eight eligible drivers could automatically clinch a Chase berth with a trip to Victory Lane at Richmond. Kasey Kahne is the only driver outside the top 10 with two wins, but he has yet to clinch a Chase spot. Five, one-win drivers still in the hunt for a Chase berth include Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
The remaining two drivers, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard, can clinch a “Wild Card” berth with a win and some help in finishing order from other drivers.
Even though it’s a must-win mindset for the bubble drivers, it can’t be overlooked how important wins are for drivers that have already clinched Chase berths. A victory by one of these drivers will give them valuable bonus points as they set the field for the final ten races of the year.
Along with Hamlin, eight other drivers have locked up their spot in the Chase based on points: Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick. Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Ford 400 champion Tony Stewart, who has three wins, is assured of at least a wild card.
Kahne and Busch still hold the two Wild Card spots with one race left in the regular season.
It was another tough night for Edwards, who has yet to win a race this season after nearly capturing the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2011. The No. 99 car started smoking on Lap 264, apparently from a blown piston. The Roush Fenway Racing driver finished 36th and now needs a miracle at Richmond to make the playoffs.
Edwards lost last year’s championship to Stewart on a tiebreaker in the final race of the season. Now, he absolutely must win at Richmond — and even that may not be enough to get him into the Chase.
“I’m not a real religious person, but it’s like somebody’s trying to reach me a lesson,” Edwards said. “We’re going to Richmond, where anything can happen. Hopefully, whatever happens involves us winning the race and getting in the Chase. We don't quit, but it's almost too much to put into words, so frustrating and shocking that this can happen.”
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Richmond on Saturday, September 8 (7:00 p.m. ET, ABC) — en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.