There’s no doubt about it now, Denny Hamlin is the championship favorite to hoist some Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hardware come November. When he finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick back at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway a month ago, he said then that he felt like he had a top three car right now.
We didn’t necessarily see it then though. That was just his third top five finish in the last 11 races of the season. Furthermore, that was his first finish that was better than fifth since his Texas win in early spring.
But, maybe he knew something that we didn’t because he hasn’t finished worse than third since.
Hamlin, caught and passed Matt DiBenedetto for the lead late in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway en route to his fourth win of the season. No one has more wins than him now as he’s now tied with his teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. for most trips to victory lane this season.
Factor in him winning the Daytona 500 and now the Bristol night race to go along with six straight top five finishes on the season and you get a driver that no doubt in our minds now is in the top three of the pecking order.
There’s also this. The next race is the Southern 500. Hamlin, won this race in 2017 and has four straight top 10 finishes at Darlington. He also has eight top 10 finishes in his last nine tries including six of those being in the top four.
After that, it’s to the Brickyard 400 where he has scored four top five finishes in his last five tries. He could go into the playoffs with eight consecutive top five finishes.
While he’s surging, the two favorites for the title earlier in the year aren’t.
Kyle Busch did finish fourth at Bristol but it was just his second top five finish in the last eight races. Busch, had six top three finishes in the first eight races of the season. He’s only had four in the last 16.
While he does have 20 top 10 finishes now including five in the last six weeks, he’s just not contending like his teammates are. That’s why he said that he’s getting his rear end kicked by them.
So is Logano.
The Team Penske driver hasn’t had a top five finish in two months now – June 30 to be exact. His last four finishes are 13th, 23rd, 17th and 16th respectively. He has one top five in his last nine starts of the season.
Busch, hasn’t won since June 2 (10 starts). Logano, hasn’t won since June 10 (9 starts). They’ve been pedestrian ever since that point.
Hamlin and others have rose to the occasion and look like championship favorites instead.