Denny Hamlin made a great start to his Round of 8 campaign from pole position having won at Kansas the previous Round.
Hamlin’s able to shut out Aric Almirola in the No.10 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang at the start of green.
But mostly the bid to punch his ticket in Homestead will have to wait at Texas on Sunday thanks to the domination of Martin Truex Jr. & frustrating battle with Joey Logano where Hamlin finished in 4th.
Hamlin, though, has won a few races under his belt in 2019 and well ahead above the cutoff line just behind Truex right now in the drivers’ standings.
That way, he will have another chance to redeem himself as long as there’s a win.
Another way Hamlin can keep his Championship 4 spot as long as he finishes inside the Top 5 in Texas & Arizona.
Then it will be enough for Hamlin to keep his hopes alive of winning the Championship at Homestead-Miami.
One man who has punched his ticket for the Championship is Truex.
He has the better race car all day in the No.19 Toyota Camry.
It’s the same team that was struggling over the last two seasons in the hands of Daniel Suarez.
Since then, Truex lifted the No.19 Team from strugglers to race winners.
With a fantastic lead in the standings with three races to go in 2019, Truex will want to make sure that he keeps this race car stable before giving his full best of adding another Cup title to the Truex trophy cabinet.
I am looking at Texas, who will join Truex for the second spot in the Championship 4?
Hamlin is one driver who has a high chance of punching his ticket as long as the No.11 Toyota Camry remains speedy.
Kyle Busch may have felt disappointed in 14th, which isn’t a good start to his semi-final bid.
But he can come back out of nowhere and strike gold.
He has done that before last year during the second final race at Arizona with the win to race for the title in the last minute at Homestead.
Though, he didn’t win that race as the whole crown belonged to Joey Logano.
So not too late just yet from Kyle Busch and the No.18 JGR Toyota Camry Team.
What about Ryan Blaney? He, too, had a decent outing in 5th behind Hamlin.
A right race car within the Top 3’s reach conveys that Blaney can usurp Ky. Busch or team-mate Logano for the 3rd & 4th Championship 4 seats.
But again, it will depend on how he goes in the next two races as a win does give Blaney extra protection to keep his hopes alive in case of some backup plan.
Kevin Harvick seemed to slip away with the slow start that Stewart-Haas experienced through most of this year, so he’s under pressure to keep himself above the cutoff line.
So is Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, the two Chevys languishing in 7th & 8th in the semi-final spots, respectively.
Larson finished okay within the Top 10 in a tricky paper clip type track.
Though having secured one win compared to the other guys ahead of him with multiple wins, the pressure is still on Larson.
Two Top 5s + a win is a must.
Larson has got the motivation & talent with his famous high line to trick drivers, which is his strength.
But repeating just average outside the Top 5 won’t help him too much if he wants the title so bad.
For Elliott, he’s so unlucky not to finish where he wanted on Sunday due to issues relating to the No.9 Hendrick Chevy.
It did hurt so much as there’s still catch up to play over the next two weeks.
Though, Elliott has hope having secured two Top 10s in the last three races.
So he’s pretty much got the outside chance of shocking the entire semi-final competition.
Should Larson or Elliott win in either of those next two rounds, then a Chevy will be able to compete for the ultimate goal since Jimmie Johnson in 2016.
For now, October will go, and November will step in as another intense week of Cup racing continues when they head to Texas Motor Speedway later.