Is Denny Hamlin In Serious Danger Of Missing The Chase For The Cup?

Travis SmithAnalyst IIMarch 4, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 26:  Denny Hamlin drives the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 26, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin has made the Chase for the cup every season that he has been in the Sprint Cup Series. Hamlin also has never had a season in which he has gone winless which is quite remarkable in the "Jimmie Johnson Era" because big stars have went winless for a long time like Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Dale Jr, and etc... All of those stats are great for Denny Hamlin but it seems like Hamlin maybe in trouble of making the chase already this early in the season.

Denny Hamlin did tear his ACL back in December but opted agianst surgery until the 2010 season is completed. Denny stated that, "It will not effect my driving abilities in the car." Well that maybe a lie because Hamlin has ran like junk these first three races into the 2010 season. Denny Hamlin was suppose to be the man to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the 2010 Sprint Cup title and he was suppose to be the head guy in the Toyota camp this year but he is not even in the top 20 in points after three races. Joey Logano has been the star at Joe Gibbs Racing while both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have struggled but Kyle Busch is close to being a winning car week in and week out as he and crew chief Dave Rodgers continue to learn each other. Denny has just been terrible and there looks to be a lot of problems in the 11 camp.

It seems like every year Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford are always at each others throats about things said on the radio or how the cars have been but it seems like 2010 has really gotten bad between these two with the lackluster start Hamlin has had. Denny really hasn't been a first half of the year type of driver but it does seem like Hamlin has never been a major factor in the Chase either so maybe it is time for Denny to get a new crew chief? Well I do know that Mike Ford is a great crew chief but I have to believe that these two need a new start with diffrent people, I'd say a guy like Steve Letarte would be a great fit for Denny if Hendrick decides to release Steve after this season. Would that fix the problems? I dont know that one but whatever they do with that, they better make sure they find a crew chief who can adapt to Denny's driving style and really click with Denny's personality or else, it will be bad news city like we have seen happen to so many drivers before.

So what will happen to Denny for the rest of the season, will he rebound or continue to struggle? Thats a tough one because Denny is such a great driver and he can really hit a hot streak at anytime and crank off 1 or 2 wins in a span of 2 weeks but the main issue is getting the 11 team competitive like his teammate Joey Logano or the RCR cars. If Denny misses the chase this year, then do not be suprised to see Denny get ACL surgery right after Richmond and have Joe Gibbs Racing find a replacement driver for the last 10 weeks as that span of the year is just a "2011" buildup period for the non-chasers. So can Denny come back from a sluggish start to be a championship contender or will this be the year that Denny misses the Chase?