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Can Denny Hamlin Still Make the NASCAR Chase?

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Its official the injury to NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin will keep him out of the car for six weeks.  Looking at the schedule that means he will miss five races because of the off week but it will probably be six.  Denny will probably not be back in the car until after the all-star race.

This year started with a lot of promise for Denny.  He got a new veteran teammate and former champion in Matt Kenseth.  Denny felt that he had the best chance ever for a Championship.  Denny’s enthusiasm was not lost on anyone and many picked him to win the Championship this year.

As we saw last year with Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing a race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup ends a driver’s chance for a championship.  In this case Denny is out early before the Chase begins.  So is Denny’s 2013 Championship run over before it really started?

NASCAR instituted the two wild card spots in the chase in order to reward drivers for winning races.  The eleventh and twelfth spots go to the drivers with the most race wins who are in the top 20 in the standings.

The plan for Denny when he comes back is simple.  Just win races.  The more the better but it may only take two wins in order to be in position to get one of those wild card spots.  Some of his best tracks, Pocono for one he will visit twice.

The bigger problem for Denny is getting back into the top 20 in points.  Denny has 145 points now.  Last year just before the Chase began the 20th place driver had 640 points.  Denny will have to make up about 500 points when he comes back in 15 races.  That is about 33 points per race.

He theoretically needs to be no further back than tenth place in every race but when you add in bonus points for leading laps and winning races it really isn’t that bad. A string of top 5 finishes plus a couple wins and he will be in business.

We all wish Denny well and a speedy recovery.  If Denny does come back on schedule and pull this off it will be incredible to watch.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

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