Denny Hamlin Championship Hopes Gone After Two Chase Races

As if further proof was needed, Denny Hamlin's performance Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway may have put the final nail in the coffin for the No. 11 team's championship hopes. 

Running out of fuel on the final lap, Hamlin finished the day in 29th and is now 66 points behind Chase leader Tony Stewart.

The preseason favorite to stop Jimmie Johnson's string of five championships, Hamlin's title chances were never a reality in the regular season and have come to an end just two races into the Chase. 

Prior to this weekend's race, Hamlin remained optimistic about being able to rebound from his 31st-place finish in Chicagoland, but admitted that another poor finish would probably mean the end of his championship hopes. After yet another disappointing finish, Hamlin said his team is still trying to put the pieces together to run competitively.

At this point in the season, if the team's focus is simply remaining competitive the title is far out of reach. 

Communication between Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford has been a constant weakness for the No. 11 team and their championship caliber pit crew have been inconsistent throughout the season. 

With problems continuing to plague their season, Mike Ford's comments after Sunday's race may indicate team morale is starting to slip.

"You could hold a pep rally, but it's not going to do anything for you," he said. 

Looking ahead to the remaining eight races, Hamlin has wins at Martinsville, Texas and Homestead, but none at the remaining five tracks. With those three among the final four races of the Chase, things are not looking up for the No. 11 group. 

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