Denny Hamlin may have lost his best chance of getting a Cup Series win in the regular season, but the way results turned out on Sunday means that he has secured himself a playoff berth.
A few months ago, it seemed like Hamlin was certain to win the regular-season championship given that he had amassed a three-digit lead over the next challenger. However, with Larson in good form along with his five wins, the Hendrick Motorsports driver caught the winless Hamlin in the last race.
As for the last race, Hamlin was fighting for a win, which would have all but secured his place in the playoffs. However, in the final laps of the race, he was taken out by Chase Briscoe. He finished 23rd and Larson 3rd, thereby taking over Hamlin as the undisputed Series points leader.
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Nonetheless, the result turned out in Hamlin’s favour regarding a playoffs berth as Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger won the race, thus becoming the 14th different driver to win a Cup race in 2021. The good thing about him winning the race is that he is a full-time Xfinity Series driver and a part-time Cup Series driver. So his win meant nothing in terms of Cup playoffs dynamics as he cannot compete in the Cup Series.
With just two races left in the season, Hamlin’s place in the playoffs is secured as there now can only be a maximum of 15 different drivers eligible for playoffs through a Cup race win.
So, even if Hamlin doesn’t finish as the regular-season champion or win a Cup race in the next two races, he will be going into the 2021 playoffs.