by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowOctober 25, 2010 10:12 pm UTC No Comments
NASCAR held a 4-way shootout with five races to go. When the smoke cleared, three Sprint Cup contenders stay standing. And they are closer than I thought they’d be.
Denny Hamlin did what he had to do. He was the favorite to win at venerable Martinsville. Hamlin won the pole and almost immediately went backwards from the race start. But the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 team kept their composure and clawed back to the front, actually driving away from his two chief tormentors at the end. Pressure performance.
Hamlin yelled “Who said it was over? I told you it wasn’t over!” after the race. And indeed it – The Chase to the Sprint Cup – is not over.
But there are no more short tracks, no more races in Virginia, in 2010. It gets tougher.
Kevin Harvick and the RCR #29, with pinch hit pit crew in place, didn’t get the win, but did finish third and two spots ahead of the points leader, Jimmie Johnson. Harvick gained points on Johnson and had his best career finish on a track where he has been weak before. Clutch. Very clutch.
The biggest loser was probably Jeff Gordon. Gordon looked strong early, on a track where we expected strength, but he faded to finish 20th and probably killed his 2010 drive for a fifth Cup title.
Johnson remains in front, but the lead is single digits over Hamlin, and Harvick is only 68 points back, with the wildcard at Talladega next up.
Harvick was the spring ‘Dega winner and is a top plate track racer.
It’s down to three with four to go. Like it.
Photo credit: Round girl Jen by BethAnne Heisler for OnPitRow.com