Going into NASCAR's final weekend, Denny Hamlin holds a 15-point lead over four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. But it seems like all the pressure is on the man currently leading the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The good folks at ESPN had their analysts do what they do best -- analyze Hamlin as he prepares for this Sunday's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Here, courtesy of ESPN, is their take on Hamlin.
How does Denny Hamlin recover from what happened at Phoenix?
Dale Jarrett – “It’s easy to get down but I think there’s two things you have to look at. If you would have told Denny Hamlin, Mike Ford and Joe Gibbs at the beginning of the Chase they could have a 15-point lead, not have to run the first nine races, and just run Homestead, they would have said we’ll take it because they said they were going to outrun them. And that name Joe Gibbs that I mentioned, that’s how they get over this. He is a great motivator; he knows how to get the most out of people. Turn disappointing things into very positive things. He’ll have these guys ready when they get to Homestead.”
Ricky Craven – “The extent that Denny Hamlin and Mike Ford can put this in their rearview mirror will determine their fate, and if they win their first title. They’ve got to focus on the positives. What are those? You’re still leading the point standings and there’s only one race left. You go to Homestead, the race that you won last year, with maybe the car that you won the mile-and-a-half race at Texas, some similarities, you have a chance to close this thing out. You have that 15-point lead, which was a by-product, by the way, of leading the most laps at Phoenix. You’ve got to think about the positives, there are a lot for the 11 team, and get over all the negatives.”
How should Denny Hamlin approach this?
Craven – “The same way he has the last four races. If he’s going to win this title, he has to take it from Jimmie Johnson and the 48. He’s going to have to do that with authority. He’s displayed that at Martinsville, Texas, even at Phoenix before he ran out of gas, and that’s how he has to approach it.”
Jarrett – “He’s had the fastest race car in the Chase and I think that will serve him well at Homestead this weekend. He’s got to go there and get the job done. You know that it’s right there in front of you – you know what you have to do – stay in front of the 48 and 29.”