Denny Hamlin confident of keeping momentum in Chase
|By Diego Mejia||Wednesday, September 26th 2012, 08:15 GMT|
Denny Hamlin believes his team's current level of performance can take him to a championship contending position at the end of the season, following his fifth win of the year.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver bounced back from a last-lap drama at Chicagoland Chase opener, where he ran out of fuel while running among the top-five, to win in dominant fashion at Loudon, having started from 28th on the grid and after dominating every practice session of the weekend.
Up next in the Sprint Cup schedule is Dover, where Chase leader Jimmie Johnson has won seven times, including four play-off races, but Hamlin is confident his team can carry its momentum from last week and continue to take a further step towards this year's title.
"I think our performance is as good, if not better, than what it was in 2010, so that part is encouraging," said Hamlin, currently third in points.
"We did have the lead going into the Chase at Dover in 2010. We left there with the lead, I believe.
"So that was a big hurdle that we had to get over and it kept us in the game throughout the Chase."
Hamlin believes it is still too early in the Chase to make it a two-horse race between him and Johnson and reckons Chicagoland winner Brad Keselowski is another strong contender.
The 2010 championship runner-up also says poor results, like the four non-finishes he had during the regular season, are something his team needs to avoid in order to make the most of their current performance.
"I think that there's still a lot of mistakes that can be made on both sides that could allow a lot of guys to perform," said Hamlin.
"The #2 car [Brad Keselowski] is obviously very strong right now, so you're not going to count him out. And really, there's no one you can eliminate until five races to go.
"If you're over a race out with five to go, and you've got to leapfrog probably three or four guys, your chances are very, very slim. These guys are too good - you can't make mistakes.
"For me, I think that's the only thing that will keep us from being in contention once we get to Homestead is our early mistakes, or mechanical failures.
"If we don't have those, I think our performance is good enough to carry us to championship contention once we get to Homestead."