It’s Hamlin’s last stand for 2013 this weekend in Loudon

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This weekend is Denny Hamlin’s last, last stand for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

With just eight races remaining until the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and after missing four races earlier this year due to his injuries sustained at Fontana, Hamlin sits 26th in points, 122 behind 20th-placed Paul Menard. Hamlin would need at least two wins and to get up to 20th in eight races, a remote possibility at best.

It’s been a particularly brutal stretch of late for the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin has just one top-10 finish in the last six races, and finishes of 30th or worse in four of the other five.

Since Hamlin entered Sprint Cup full-time in 2006, he has not missed the Chase.

The only realistic hope for Hamlin to begin an eight-race surge would be a win this weekend at Loudon, where he won the September race last year and finished second to Kasey Kahne in the July race. Even then, he’d still need a lot of help.

But from a pride standpoint, since Hamlin has gone winless since last September at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he’ll be desperate to shake this rough form of late and get back to his winning ways. And, as MotorSportsTalk noted a week ago, the word “quit” is not in Hamlin’s vocabulary.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”