The cutoff race in the Round of 8 is here, as four drivers will advance to the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway upon the completion of Sunday’s Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN) at the Phoenix Raceway. Right now, we already know who three of the four drivers will be. By virtue of their wins in the third round, Kyle Busch (Martinsville) and Kevin Harvick (Texas) will race for a championship next weekend in South Florida. Martin Truex Jr. will also join them at Homestead because of how many points he has.
That leaves just one spot for five drivers to battle for.
Currently, Brad Keselowski leads Denny Hamlin by 19 points for that final spot. Realistically, those are the only two drivers that can make it to Homestead on points alone. Ryan Blaney on back likely has to win the race in order to advance. But, what if I told you that if not for two huge errors by Hamlin, he could be in a position where he could make the Championship 4 on points alone and not have to worry as much.
Think about this.
Hamlin won the Southern 500 at Darlington back in September. Unfortunately, that win was deemed encumbered. Part of that win being taken away was the five playoff points that he earned. So, if his No. 11 Toyota passes inspection, he’s now 14 points behind Keselowski not 19.
Then, factor in this, what if Hamlin doesn’t purposely wreck Elliott with three laps left at Martinsville? Entering Lap 497, Hamlin was in second place. If he made a better judgement call to get by, or even settle for second place, that would take that deficit down even more.
See, Hamlin wrecked Elliott and brought out a caution. On the final lap, Hamlin lost the lead and fell to seventh. That’s a five point swing from Lap 497. So, instead of 14 points down, he’s now nine.
Let that sink in.
I bet he’d want those 10 points back right now.