- Associated Press - Sunday, June 9, 2013

LONG POND, PA. (AP) - Make it another top 10 for Denny Hamlin in his return from a back injury.

Make it one less race on the schedule he has to gain ground in the Chase.

Hamlin’s grind toward a Chase for the Sprint Cup championship wild-card berth continued with an eighth-place finish Sunday at Pocono.

His four-race absence because of his back injury has him needing wins to make the Chase and race for his first career championship. He needs wins in a hurry, not just a solid race day.

Hamlin is 25th in the points standings, 76 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., in 20th. Hamlin needs to be at least 20th to be eligible for a wild-card berth in the Chase. Once he hits that number, he’s going to need wins.

He still believes he’ll get the No. 11car in the Chase.

“We’ve got some great race tracks coming up for us,” he said. “Typically, during the summer, we have a lot of really good race tracks for us. I’m very optimistic for our team.”

Hamlin has three top 10s since his return to go along with a miserable 34th last week at Dover.

“We’re fighting it,” Hamlin said. “We’re just trying to do everything we can and grind and finish good when we don’t have a winning car. By no means did we have a winning car this weekend.”

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