Denny Hamlin is very much in the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, but it's clear that Hamlin's racing crew must step it up in order to avoid losing the Chase for their driver.
As it stands now, Hamlin is in fourth place in the Chase, just 15 points behind the current leader, Brad Keselowski.
According to the Associated Press, per The Washington Post, Hamlin's pit crew has made some major mistakes already and we're only in the second week of the Chase.
The first mistake came last week in Chicago:
Tied with Brad Keselowski for the season victory lead with four, Hamlin is fourth in the points race after running out of gas and finishing 16th because his gas man failed to fill up the tank on the final pit stop in the Chase opener in Chicago. Hamlin brushed off the error, saying on Twitter: “This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week.”
The second error came during qualifying this weekend when Hamlin hit the track with the wrong pressure in his tires:
Shortly after backtracking from a tweet in which he seemed to guarantee a victory, Hamlin went out for qualifying with the wrong pressure in his tires. Although that left him 32nd in Sunday’s starting grid, Hamlin tried to sound positive about the second gaffe by his Joe Gibbs Racing crew in the first two weeks of the Chase.
Hamlin can make light of these two mistakes all he wants and even brush them off as if they mean nothing, but behind the scenes the No. 4 driver in the Chase standings must be concerned.
The Chase features the very best drivers in NASCAR, so naturally many of these great drivers have a solid pit crew. If Hamlin's pit crew is inferior to the rest, that could be the difference in the weeks to come.
The last thing any driver wants is to lose a race as a result of what happens off the track. Hamlin's downfall might not be because of his driving, but rather because of an inept pit crew.
Hamlin might have a "we'll get 'em next week" attitude now, but the weeks are quickly running out. Soon, there won't be a next week and he won't be able to afford running out of gas or hitting the track without the proper tire pressure.
If the necessary adjustments haven't been made already, Hamlin and his team must consider doing so immediately. There is little room for error in the Chase, and Hamlin is too good of a driver and has too fast of a car to allow this to happen.
Pit crews can often be overlooked in NASCAR because their job seems so routine, but that couldn't be further from the truth as evidenced by the negative results spawned from Hamlin's bad pit crew.
If he doesn't get his crew's act together quickly, it could cost Hamlin the Chase in 2012.