Hamlin Drops The Hammer
Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin, Stewart. The four men who are poised to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
After week two of the Chase for the Championship, those four would be the best bets to hoist the trophy. For Denny Hamlin, it's obvious that he is ready to step up. He and his crew stubbed their collective toes last week, then backed it up with a major blunder in qualifying. To get from 28th to 1st in less than 100 laps is beyond impressive.
Three-time titlist Tony Stewart sits ten points back of the leader and being the defending champ that he is cannot be counted out at all. He has recently struggled at next week's venue, Dover International Raceway, so anything remotely resembling a top 15 finish will keep him in the hunt.
Although he surrenders the point lead by one marker, Brad Keselowski has plenty of hubris to believe in his chances. Special K grabbed all he could on the Magic Mile by making excellent adjustments late to finish sixth. He has shown strength at the 1.5 mile tracks and there plenty of those circuits left to make hay.
Then there's that 48 car driven by the incomparable Jimmie Johnson. Two races, two second places in the chase and Dover next where he could be the next one to call his shot for a win. It's still too early to pencil him down as a 6-time champ, but it's a four horse race to the finish at this point.
The other 8 drivers in the chase have not shown enough to warrant serious consideration. There is an outside chance that Kasey Kahne or Clint Bowyer could step up to challenge, but that's a pretty big four-headed monster to slay. Two of them have DONE it and the other two are ready.
However, there is a measure of pity that should be given to Jeff Gordon. If not for a crash last week, he would also be in consideration for the top of the heap. Add 20 points on the conservative side or take a wild stab at a 28 to 30 point swing and he's right there.
Let's see who masters the concrete next week at Dover.