NASCAR: Is Denny Hamlin in danger of being eliminated?

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Going into the round of 12 of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Denny Hamlin sits 43 points above the cut line, but could this round be concerning for him?

Denny Hamlin enters the round of 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs 43 points above the round of 8 cut line, second place behind Kevin Harvick. With that being said, why could Hamlin be in trouble by the time the cutoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval rolls around?

He recently spoke to Beyond the Flag about the second round being his toughest task.

“For us, no question it’s that second round, it’s the most concerning round,” he admitted. “Everyone will talk about Talladega and how ‘wild card’ it is, and you can get caught up in a wreck there. We know the superspeedways are very tough to predict. The Roval, to me, is equally as tough to predict as a superspeedway is, and then Las Vegas has just been really our Achilles heel with our whole race team at JGR, to be honest with you, through the course of my career.”

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The three tracks in the round of 12 are not statistically Hamlin’s best. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of his worst tracks on the schedule. He has an average finish of 14.00 in 17 starts there and only one top 10 finish in his last five starts at the track. Since the addition of stage racing in 2017, there have been six races run at the track.

In those six races, Hamlin has scored stage points in only three of 12 stages. While a 43-point cushion over the round of 8 cut line is nice, this is not a recipe for success, especially with the two other tracks on the round of 12 schedule being what they are.

The second race of the round of 12 is at Talladega Superspeedway, which may provide Hamlin with his best chance to get some points and maybe win to lock himself into the round of 8. He is one of the best superspeedway drivers in the Cup Series, so a win is not out of the question for him. In the last four races at Talladega Superspeedway, he has three top four finishes.

But one wrong move by one driver could cause the “Big One” and lead to Hamlin being in trouble going into the final race of the round of 12.

The final race of the round of 12 is at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. In the two races there, Hamlin has not been a contender, as he recorded an average finish of 15.5 and did not score a single stage point.

One thing that could bring some hope for Hamlin is the fact he ran up front for most of the race at the Daytona International Speedway road course last month. He finished in second place there and that could bring some confidence that he can run toward the front at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

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One more thing to consider is the fact that Hamlin seemed to struggle in the round of 16 and recorded no top 10 finishes in three races, and that round consisted of tracks where he typically runs well. There may be a lack of confidence for Hamlin and the #11 team heading into the round of 12, but that will need to change if they expect to advance to the round of 8 and make a run for the championship.