Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin Are Left With "What Might Have Been"

Misan AkuyaCorrespondent INovember 25, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 23:  Denny Hamlin (L) driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota poses with Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 23, 2009 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin both had great seasons in 2009 more than capable of winning a champion.  Stewart led the points more than any other driver, won 4 races, had 15 top fives, 23 top tens, had a 10th place average finish (which was better than that of Jimmie Johnson's) but ended up a somewhat disappointing 6th in points in the first season for Stewart Haas racing.

Denny Hamlin too won 4 races including the season finale at Homestead.  Hamlin had 15 top fives, 20 top tens, and an average finish of 13th.  He ended up a somewhat dissapointing 5th in points.

Tony Stewart's chase troubles began at New Hampshire in the first race.  He started 2nd and led 52 laps looking to perhaps once again have the best car at Loudon.  But a loose axle cap put Stewart back to 33rd but he came back to finish 14th.

At Dover he was running 5th and decided to pit late, regulating him to a 9th place finish.

He struggled with the balance all night at Lowes, got it better but ran out of laps as he finished 13th that night.

He was running 6th late at Martinsville only to have all but 1 of the drivers behind him take on tires.  He was regulated back to a 9th place finish.

He got caught in the first of 2 multi crashes causing him to finish a season worst 35th and his only dnf of the season.

He then got caught up in a wreck that was caused by a spinning Dale Earnhardt Jr which regulated him to finish 25th.

Then with the fireworks at Homestead after leading twice for 43 laps, made a pass on Juan Pablo Montoya which was returned by a ram in the rear end, Stewart not liking this took to door slam Montoya causing the 42 to cut a tire, go in the wall and loose brakes.

When Montoya came back out he was 28 laps down and decided to end what he started to crash Stewart taking him out of 5th in points. 

When you look at the races that nothing has happen to Stewart he has won, finished 5th, and 6th.  Quite solid.

Denny Hamlin missed the setup at Dover finished 22nd 2 laps down. 

While leading the race at Auto Club speedway, he cut off Juan Pablo Montoya (I know funny how Montoya is involved in everything) causing him to finish 37th and record a dnf.

While leading at Lowes the next week his engine blew up causing him to finish 42nd and record his 2nd straight dnf.

Then he blew up again at Talladega and finished 38th recording his 3rd dnf of the chase.

Outside of that, 2 wins, two 2nds, a 3rd, and a 5th.  

Both drivers overall has fantastic seasons.  This si Stewart's first season as a driver/owner and he is only going to get better at it same with his team.

This is Hamlin's first season as the leader at Joe Gibbs racing's with Stewart departure.  He is only going to embellish his new found role at JGR better and better.

Both drivers and teams have really learnt from this year's chase.

Expect these 2 to be back and wouldn't surprise me at all to see them 1-2 in the final points standings in no particular order.