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NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway: A Saturday Night Shootout

The last image we had of Texas Motor Speedway was of a smiling Denny Hamlin and his confident crew chief Mike Ford, seemingly well on their way to the Sprint Cup Series championship.

Hamlin left Texas as the Chase points leader last fall, and it appeared defending champion Jimmie Johnson was on the ropes. Ford quickly took the opportunity to take jabs at Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus, claiming the 11 team rattled the 48.

The Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief even criticized Knaus for making a mid-race pit crew member swap.

We all know what happened after that.

Hamlin dominated Phoenix the next week, but his fuel mileage wasn't good enough to win. Already frustrated, he then rolled into Homestead and coughed up the lead, giving Johnson a fifth straight title.

Things haven't been much better this year. Hamlin is only 19th in points and didn't get a good result last week at Martinsville, where he had won three straight races.

To make matters worse, his No. 11 team even made a mid-race pit crew member swap – the same thing Ford criticized Knaus for at Texas last year.

So if there's any driver who needs a win at Texas this week, given everything that's happened since the last time NASCAR visited the Lone Star State, it's Hamlin.

Can he rebound? Or will Hamlin be forced to start looking at one of the wild card spots to make the Chase this year?

We'll all find out together.