Two drivers who have risen to the top and shown absolute dominance over the field have both come from the Joe Gibbs garage and are both seasoned veterans in the NASCAR Cup Series. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have, in my opinion, quickly shown that they are the 2 best drivers on the track this year and they have both shown it in their own way.
Starting with Denny Hamlin who has shown that he is not messing around this year by taking full advantage of the stage racing. Currently Denny sits 79 points above 2nd place team mate Truex, despite not winning a single race all season. He has done this by scoring 103 stage points so far this season. Hamlins average stage finish this season in stages he has gotten stage points (which is almost every stage) is 3rd, or 7 points. In my opinion, as long as Hamlin can keep up his stage form and go win a race or 2, Hamlin can coast his way through the playoffs. Some people will say that in this system when it comes to playoff time, wins are all that matters. While on some level these people are right, they fail to take into account that if you run 3rd for both stages you get an extra 14 points per race that not everyone in the playoff field will have. This can be a huge advantage in the season and my reason on how Hamlin can push his way into another final 4.
Dennys biggest competition for the championship this year, Martin Truex Jr. is going to punch his ticket a different way, what some would consider the old fashioned way. Truex is looking to get his way into the championship battle by winning. Truex has not been as consistent in running up front but he has been better in an important stat, the win column. Truex has become the first 2 time winner all season which is impressive considering the wild race winners and amount of first time winners this season. Truex does have one big step above Hamlin in what I believe to be the main championship battle this season and that is a win. Due to the win and you’re in format Truex has all but locked himself in on wins and can coast the rest of the year whereas Hamlin has to fight to at least get 1 win to lock himself into the 16 driver playoff field.
Now that we have established that both drivers have all but made it to the playoffs let’s talk about how they will perform in the final races of the season. Here is where I think Hamlin is at a severe disadvantage due to the track schedule leaning more in Truex favor. With short tracks and road courses being where I think MTJ is better than Hamlin I think Turex has more chances to lock himself in the next rounds of the playoff and more or less coast his way to the championship race at Phoenix. Hamlins only true shot at a win for me, is Talladega, super speedways are where Denny is king and an easy chance for Hamlin to push through.
Now let’s talk about the big dance, Phoenix, a track where MTJ has already had a win and a track I think he can sweep this year to secure his second NASCAR Cup Series Championship. I also think that as per usual Hamlin or his team will ruin another dominant season and see him fall second fiddle again in the Gibbs garage as a driver without a championship.