Denny Hamlin after winning at Texas Motor Speedway
We are down to the wire in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. We have a new leader in the points and two races for him to win or lose the Chase. This season's Chase has come down to who wants it more and who has the team, driver skill and desire to win it.
Denny Hamlin took the points lead from Jimmie Johnson with his win at Texas Motor Speedway November 7th. Johnson finished ninth, which gave Hamlin a 33-point lead over the four-time champion. With only Phoenix and Homestead left, Hamlin may be the man to beat Johnson's drive for a fifth championship.
The Sprint Cup drivers roll into Phoenix this weekend. Hamlin's average finish at Phoenix is 11th, and he's never won there. Johnson's average finish is fourth, and he has four wins under his belt. That means Hamlin has a lot of work to do before he can count Johnson out.
We can not count Kevin Harvick out of the equation yet either. He finished sixth at Texas and gained some ground in the points. His average finish is 15th at Phoenix, but he has two wins, which is more than Hamlin can say.
Can Hamlin keep his points lead? With all the racing that will occur at Phoenix and Homestead-Maimi, the points are going to shake up again. If Johnson digs deep, he may come back and win a fifth consecutive title.
Johnson does not need to make rookie mistakes. He needs to qualify well and finish well. If he drives well then he has done his job as a driver. All the responsibility can not rest on Johnson though.
His crew was switched out for teammate Jeff Gordon's team after Gordon was wrecked out of the race on Sunday. The number 48 team needs to step up and do as good as they can. Chad Knaus may not be able to get Gordon's crew every week.
The team needs to make fast stops and make them error-free. The last thing that team wants is to be the reason Jimmie Johnson lost the Chase. That would affect the morale of the team when the new season starts.
Hamlin has proved himself to be a contender for the title so expect him to fight as hard as he can. He wants this title, and he's racing well enough to win it. If he keeps this up, he will be the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.