This weekend was another one filled with frustration for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin at Michigan International Speedway.
This weekend, Hamlin needed another solid effort or a win here at a track where he has found success before. His desperate quest for a wild card Chase berth is looking more and more a Quixotic one as the weeks go by without a win for this Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team.
The cruel reality is that because of the weeks he missed due to his back injury at the Auto Club, Hamlin is in a do-or-die points situation. All was well with the world in the first few weeks that he was back, and he came back strong with nice top-five finishes at Darlington and Charlotte. Then he hit a stumbling block in Dover and finished in 34th after a late-race tire mishap ended a solid day.
Then in the wake of the Dover Toyota engine collapses, Toyota Racing Development decided to tweak their engines in an effort to make them more reliable but perhaps less poweful. This was felt by the Toyota drivers at Pocono when a Toyota couldn’t be found in the top five. Hamlin finished a solid eighth which is still is not enough in order to save his postseason chances at this point.
In the Quicken Loans 400 this week, Hamlin had a car that handled poorly at the start of the race that led him to going laps down that he was just never lucky enough to earn back. Today’s finish of 30th brought Hamlin a spot further down in the standings, so he is even farther away from that golden stretch from 11th to 20th where the wild cards are determined.
It’s truly do-or-die time for Denny Hamlin. If he doesn’t start stacking wins count him out of this year Chase for the Sprint Cup.