Hamlin Hoping To Clinch

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Denny Hamlin notched another top-five finish last Sunday night in the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway and now shoots to lock-in a spot in the Chase at his home track in Richmond this weekend.

After skidding through the mid-summer stretch of the schedule, Hamlin has put together a string of good finishes that has him on the doorstep of this year's championship season.

"It's definitely what we needed," Hamlin said after his third place run in Fontana. "We needed to come out of here with a top-five finish and beat the guys that we were racing in the points. Definitely this is a good finish for us."

Although he holds down the 11th spot in the standings with only one race left to set this year's Chase field, Hamlin isn't taking anything for granted.

"Anything can happen at Richmond, and we led every lap it seemed like in the spring and ended up finishing 28th or something," he said. "So, you never know what can happen. I wish I had probably a 130-point lead, that way you know you pretty much lock yourself in when you have a buffer like that."

Despite the domination of Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and now Jimmie Johnson of late, Hamlin says anything is possible down the stretch.

"But you know, nothing says that bad luck can't (stop them from) trying and if they do, those guys are ready to pounce, because they are running good," Hamlin said. "They are running top-15 each week, so I'm definitely comfortable though. I think on-track performance, we should be fine, and just as long as we run a good, conservative race, we'll have our spot again."

Once the playoffs begin, Hamlin thinks the variety of tracks will help equalize the field.

"In the 'Chase', you've got a lot of short tracks, and you have the superspeedway," he said. "There's plenty of race tracks where you can make up ground on those guys. But obviously the way they are running right now, if you don't finish in the top-three every week, you're not going to win the championship. They have to put 10 solid weeks together, and we have to do the same if we make it."

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008

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