A mini-run of respectability took a step backward for the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11, which finished 17th at Texas after two top-5s at Martinsville and Atlanta. Don't discount that -- only half the Chasers (Biffle, Burton, Edwards, Johnson and Kenseth) have had consecutive top-5s during the playoff races. But one slipup and Hamlin is back to 12th in points again, though only three marks out of 10th.
"It's not just enough to make the Chase anymore," Hamlin said. "For us to be satisfied, we feel like we need to be more of a contender, I guess you could say."
(Hamlin offered those thoughts this week on a NASCAR teleconference, as apparently the sanctioning body feels the battle at the rear of the Chase standings with two races to go is riveting enough for the media. But we digress.)
Going The Wrong Way
Here's the No. 38 Yates Ford, on his tussles with Juan Pablo Montoya
at Texas: "It's a shame we've got some tore-up race cars and we got parked, but I got up in front of him -- my spotter said I was clear -- and I kind of slid up in front of him, and he jacked my rear wheels off the ground going down the back straightaway and then got into me again going into Turn 1 and 2 and jacked me up way up the track. I was trying to let him go and got a good run off the corner and just kind of misjudged it coming down across him. I was gonna let him go, so I feel real bad for those guys."
If you believe that, we've got beach-front property at Bristol to sell. How Gilliland is being allowed to race at Phoenix this week is a mystery.
Showing Some Love For
Martin Truex Jr.:
Dale Earnhardt Inc. will take every shred of good news it can find these days, like a second-place qualifying effort and eighth-place finish at Texas for the flagship No. 1 Chevrolet. It was his third top-10 and fifth top-15 in eight Chase races.
"We have had good starts here before but haven't always been able to put together a good finish," said Truex, 15th in points. "We struggled with the car the first two-thirds of the race, then Bono [crew chief Kevin Manion] made a great call late when we took two tires and went a round up on the track bar. It got us a lot of track position on pit road. We were able to able to hold it for the rest of the race."