Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sorry folks, Jimmie Johnson will be a factor in this year's Chase

After two weeks of people thinking, hoping and even begging themselves to believe that Jimmie Johnson might be too far out of the points lead to come back and win yet another championship, he dashed all of those dreams in one week.

Johnson finished second last week at Dover and now sits fifth in the points standings just 13 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

Of course all of the talk about the #48 team’s demise was incredibly premature. That would be like saying the New England Patriots won’t be a factor in the NFL playoffs. These teams are too good to suddenly fall apart.

However, I don’t think anybody expected Johnson to be so close after just one good run, and it is a little scary to think what he could do to the Chase standings if he puts together a string of top-five finishes.

When Johnson started the Chase with a 39th-place finish at New Hampshire in 2006, it took him until the eighth race of the Chase to make it back to the top.

This year Johnson cut his point deficit from 29 to 13 after finishing well outside the top 10 in the first two races and if everything fall right he could be back on top by Sunday at Kansas, but more likely it could be the sixth race of the Chase at Talladega or the following week at Martinsville.

While people may have thought, or at least wanted to believe, the new points system would make it more difficult for Johnson to dominate the Chase, it might actually make it easier for Johnson to run away with the trophy.

We saw earlier this season how much easier it is to gain ground in the points standings under this new system when Brad Keselowski jumped from 23rd to 12th in just six races.

That’s not to say that all 12 drivers, or even half of the Chase field will have a realistic chance at the championship as the season comes to a close, but the new system has made the standings more fluid.

When the new points system was announced before the season, a lot was made about how a bad finish hurt a driver more than in the past. But, the flip side of that argument is that a good finish helps in the standings more than ever.

It was never likely that the #48 to be out of the championship picture as the series heads to Homestead for the final race of the year, but the new points system may have made that even more of a pipe dream.

Yet, while the points system might make it easier for a driver to recover in the standings, it also makes it harder to keep the lead. No driver has dominated the standings during the regular season this year the way Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick did the past two years.

Right now the standings are tied, and the way the season has gone so far it would be shocking if the leader had more than a 10-point lead heading into the final race at Homestead.

Many fans will hope that leader is not Johnson, but last week at Dover showed it is going to take a substantial amount of bad luck to keep him from being a factor for the championship.


  1. While it is great for the sport to have Jr. in the Chase he is a non-factor.

    What is not great for the sport is to have a driver who most fans despise still have a legitimate chance at running for his 6th title. The moment Jimmie is no longer a factor is the moment that NASCAR ratings will surge.

    Vanilla is less a flavor than it is a base to which you can add some excitement. Give me vanilla with rainbow sprinkles and M&Ms eaten by a goose sitting in Office Depot while drinking Crown Royal with his Budweiser and Miller Lite.

  2. Anonymous - Haha! That's great. Hopefully that guy's entire life can be summed up with the sponsers who have a chance to win the championship at Homestead.

  3. Well if Kurt is out of it you can bet he'll be gunning to take JJ out of it so maybe some of the rivalry "boys have at it" stuff will effect the final outcome. I am 99% sure every Chaser out there is thinking anyone but JJ...

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  5. This is it! Darth Vader is done! He foresakes the dark side and the Emperor (Rick Hendrick) falls as the forces of good (fill in the blank) defeat evil!

    The Force be with you!