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Worries about Denny Hamlin’s season are unnecessary — for now

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Postseason worries for Denny Hamlin are very, very real at the moment.

The Virginia driver, who piloted his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a close runner-up in last year's Chase for the Sprint Cup, watched any NBA postseason hopes for his beloved Charlotte Bobcats slip away Tuesday night after losing to Orlando. Hamlin holds season tickets for Bobcats' home games.

Back on the track, though, worries that a struggling Hamlin could on the outside looking in when NASCAR reaches its championship system in September are rather far-fetched at the moment.

Hamlin currently finds himself 19th in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points, trailing leader and teammate Kyle Busch by some 74 points. This season, NASCAR's championship contenders will consist of the top-10 drivers in the driver point standings after the season's 26th race in Richmond plus two more drivers who have the most wins and aren't already locked in.

Either way — mainly based on past history — Hamlin figures to easily fall into one of those categories. And if Hamlin follows last year's pace, he could make himself eligible in the next ten races.

A year ago, Hamlin had just notched his first win in the season's sixth race at Martinsville. The win moved Hamlin to 15th in the standings, carrying to that point an average finish of 17.6. Races seven through 16 of the 2010 schedule were then the catalyst for Hamlin's charge to unseat Jimmie Johnson from the championship pedestal.

In those 10 races — starting with a win at Texas — Denny rolled to four wins and an average finish of 10.5. He also led nearly 30 percent of all his laps led last year during the stretch and rocketed to fourth in the Cup standings before July rolled in. {ysp:more}

Sure, I get it: past history plays exactly zero role in how a team or driver will perform going forward. But Hamlin — who doubled his win total to 16 last season $mdash; has led in four of the six races this season and has been beset by a sizable dose of bad luck. Don't forget that Busch, the points leader, is Hamlin's JGR teammate.

Plus, statistically thinking without considering bonus points for wins or laps led, Hamlin only needs to outrun 10th-place Mark Martin by less than a single position to catch and pass him for the last Chase spot by race 26. For fifth, Hamlin needs to beat Kevin Harvick by an average of about 2.95 positions in the next 20 races to claim the spot.

To top leader Kyle Busch, Hamlin needs roughly to average roughly 3.7 spots better by Richmond — though the higher he reaches the more drivers he has to compete with for points positions.

Life in a race car certainly hasn't been fun and exciting the way Hamlin would like it to be, but to think Hamlin's Chase chances are already darkening is a bit misguided.

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