Hamlin: Charlotte Key To Contender Round

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Oct 11 1531

Denny Hamlin would love to kick a man when he’s down—three men to be exact.

With Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all having serious issues last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Hamlin sees and opportunity to keep them out of the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

And he thinks Charlotte will be the key race in that scenario, given the often-random nature of Talladega, the final venue in the Contender Round. The way Hamlin sees, Charlotte presents the best chance for the three drivers in question to make up ground, or to guarantee advancing to the Eliminator Round by winning the race.

“I think this is the key weekend for that,” Hamlin said. “All the speed in the world that all those teams have had this year means nothing when we go to Talladega. In my opinion, this is their shot to make up those points. Next week, you can't count on the speed of the car. It's just going to be about circumstances and drivers putting themselves in the right spot not to get wrecked and then after that, you have to find your way to victory lane."

“I think this is the week that's going to really set the tone for next week and obviously Talladega is the final cutoff race. You thought it was going to be wild, but now with the way it's playing out, and especially those cars that have had bad races last week, it's shaping up to be very epic. Until the last lap, you will not know who is going to be in or out.”