Desperation is starting to set in for several drivers who’ve started 2022 on a rather lackluster note. Those in need of a serious bounce on Sunday at Atlanta include Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell, along with Wood Brothers Racing rookie Harrison Burton who is the son of retired Cup driver-turned-NASCAR-on-NBC race announcer Jeff Burton. The three have combined for just one top-10 finish in the four races this year, and none of the three rank inside the top 25 in the standings.
“We’re a lot better race team than what folks saw at Phoenix,” Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood said after Burton’s 29th-place finish last weekend. “We’ll put this behind us, move on to Atlanta and put every effort into having a strong run.” Hamlin, a staple of the Championship 4 in recent years, is 27th in points after finishing no better than 13th in the season’s first four outings. If there’s any good news for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, it’s that he’s a former winner at Atlanta and has finished in the top five in two of his last three starts at the Georgia facility.
Bell, meanwhile, is 30th in the standings after finishing outside the top 25 in three of the season’s first four races. The JGR driver finished eighth in his most recent Atlanta start but has never led a lap in three trips to the historic quad-oval. If Hamlin, Bell and Burton don’t turn it around soon, any chance of qualifying for the playoffs on the basis of points will be out the window this season, so they’re in desperate need of a change in fortunes.