NASCAR Drivers Very Split on ‘Must-Win’ Situations

Denny Hamlin

Getty Denny Hamlin believes there will be fewer than 16 winners.

The end of the Cup Series regular season is quickly approaching, and time is running out for drivers to secure their spots in the playoffs. However, they remain split on whether they should focus on points or wins.

A popular discussion throughout the 2022 season has focused on the possibility of more than 16 winners. Drivers such as Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Bubba Wallace have shown speed and contended multiple times. Though none have reached Victory Lane just yet.

Some analysts and drivers believe that members of this group will join the existing group of winners and create a need for tiebreakers. However, Denny Hamlin has a very different opinion.

“There’s not going to be 17 winners,” Hamlin told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass ahead of the Cup Series date at Sonoma Raceway. “There’s not going to be 17 winners. We can give up that one. No chance. No chance. You’ll be lucky to have 14 [winners].”

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A Daytona 500 Champion Expects More New Winners

Austin Dillon

GettyAustin Dillon sits in a must-win situation.

Hamlin believes that there won’t be more than 16 winners in the 2022 regular season as drivers continue to adjust to the Next Gen stock cars. Dillon, however, has a different opinion on the matter. He expects to see more new winners before the playoffs, which puts him into a must-win situation.

“I don’t think mathematically it’s not hard at all for us to get into the playoffs if there’s no more new winners,” Dillon told media members ahead of the Sonoma race, transcript courtesy of GM. “I think we are in a place where we can point our way in. I think there are going to be more winners and we need to be one of them.”

The first 15 weeks of the regular season have featured 11 winners, including in the first seven races. William Byron was the first driver to secure multiple wins and then Ross Chastain, Hamlin, and Joey Logano joined him.

Will there be more repeat winners before the end of the regular season, or will new drivers continue to reach Victory Lane? Dillon believes it will be the latter, but there is no clear answer ahead of the trip to Sonoma.

3 Contenders Will Pay Extra Attention to the Storyline

Christopher Bell

GettyChristopher Bell sits in a favorable position after 15 races.

Having more than 16 winners would potentially pose problems for Austin Cindric and Kurt Busch considering that both drivers are both below the playoff cutline. Hamlin is in a better position by virtue of sitting in a tie with three other drivers for the most wins in the series.

There are three drivers that are in fantastic positions in the points standings, but they are all winless. Ryan Blaney is fourth overall with 479 points, Martin Truex Jr. is fifth with 470 points, and Christopher Bell is 10th with 434 points.

If there are fewer than 14 winners in the regular season as Hamlin predicted, the members of this trio will not have to worry as much about their position above the cutline. They would all most likely secure their respective spots in the 16-driver field. If that number moves to 14 or 15, however, these winless drivers will have to fight with each other for the precious few remaining spots.

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