Upstart Danny Hamlin tightens Cup chase

Danny Hamlin called his shot.

Before the season, he said he was the guy to take the crown from four-time champion Jimmie Johnson. During the Chase, he said he just needed a good run at Martinsville.

Well, I just didn't see it.

He's proving me wrong. And after today at Martinsville, he's only six points behind Johnson.

And Talladega, that haunted high-speed high-banked speedway, is next. On Halloween no less.

Who knows who will be leading in points when NASCAR comes to Texas -- Johnson, Hamlin or even Kevin Harvick?

Hamlin has won three races in a row at Martinsville. This figured to be a good race for him.

Then comes Talladega, a crap shoot for everyone. One bobble, one mistake in the high-speed pack there and any one of the top three could wind up in the trash heap with a 40th place finish.

And their 2010 points finish could wind up in that trash heap, too.

I didn't see Hamlin as the guy to wrest the title from Johnson. I figured maybe Jeff Gordon or Harvick or maybe Tony Stewart. But Hamlin had yet to show me the consistency or the maturity to win the championship.

I was wrong. Hamlin has fought through early season knee surgery, winning the Samsung Mobile 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway in April one week after going under the knife, proving both his toughness and ability to overcome adversity.

He went on a tear. He's won seven races this season, the most of any driver in the field.

He called his shot. And, best of all, he has backed it up.

Four races to go ... Jimmie Johnson is not sleeping well tonight.