NASCAR

Big storylines brewing at Homestead

Dale Earnhardt Jr
Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won a race since June 2012.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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I am really looking forward to Sunday’s race at Homestead. I think we are going to see a combination of a very smart race, while at the same time see some very aggressive racing. I think Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be racing very aggressively.

They all have something yet to prove. In Jeff’s case, he wants to prove that despite being the 13th car added to the Chase, he deserves to be here. Same thing with Carl Edwards – he let one slip through his fingers last weekend. As for Dale Earnhardt Jr., well, folks are already talking about 2014 and whether can he improve on his consistency to be more of a factor.

Sorry to burst the Junior Nation bubble, but if you can’t win, it doesn’t matter. You hear us say it time and time again: consistency will not win you a championship. Wins in the win column are what wins NASCAR Sprint Cup championships these days.

Who is the perfect example of that? Well, that’s easy – the cat sitting behind the wheel of that No. 48 Lowe’s car. Not only does Jimmie Johnson win in the regular season but he also wins during the Chase. That equates to currently five championships for Jimmie, and after Sunday, he’ll be able to add No. 6 to the total.

You have to be defined and looked at as a winning threat to be considered a Chase challenger. That’s no disrespect to Dale Jr., because he has had a great year across the board, except when it comes to the win column. It’s all about Victory Lane, and if anyone thinks you can win the championship on consistency alone and not visit Victory Lane, well, that’s simply a pipe dream.

IT ADDS UP

Where did your favorite driver finish in the 2013 final standings?

If you want a dark horse for this weekend, consider the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin. It’s been an absolutely horrible year and, yes, Homestead isn’t one of his better tracks. To me that’s the perfect scenario to go out and shock everyone with a win. Not only that, but it gets you and the team, your sponsor and your organization pumped for the 2014 season. Carrying positive momentum into our so-called off-season is a very powerful thing.

I think Clint Bowyer might be another one to keep an eye on. He finished second in the points last year but has been anything but a factor in this year’s Chase. People wanted to get all over Carl Edwards for being so good in 2011 and then not so much in 2012, but Clint is, sadly, another example.

This is a tough business. You can be really good one year and not so good the next. I think Clint has shown everyone that it can happen to anyone and any manufacturer. I don’t think his heart or desire to win is any less than it was a year ago.

It goes to show, however, how tight the competition is in NASCAR today. If you and your car are off just a little bit, the Chase has a funny way of making a title contender one year be a pretender the next. It simply is just that tough in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
 

Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin

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