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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Don’t forget the champ: Johnson serves notice with dominating win

Sunday night’s race at California was similar to a bad blind date.
Heading into the date, there is lots of excitement: What’s going to happen? Will Edwards and Busch have another exciting battle? Will there be any big changes in the Chase standings?

But just like a bad blind date where you realize your date is more boring than C-SPAN, shortly into the race fans started to realize only one thing was going to happen: Jimmie Johnson was going to blow the field to smithereens and fans would be royally bored until the race ended. I think about halfway through Johnson’s driving clinic, I began to contemplate when my electric bill was due and when I had to do laundry next. The most exciting thing I saw all night was a caution caused by a falling caution light.

Despite all the buildup, nothing happened Saturday except for Jimmie Johnson leading almost every lap and making sure Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch knew they would have some company battling for the championship trophy in the Chase. Busch put on an equally snooze-inducing show the previous night in the Nationwide race, but just didn’t have a car to compete Sunday night.

Many, including myself, have basically said the title is Busch’s to lose. He has been that good this year.
But over the past month or so, Edwards and now Johnson have made aggressive statements that they won’t be defeated without a fight. For the first time in what seems like forever, Busch was not even a factor in this race, and didn’t even lead a lap. He finished in the top 10, but that’s a bad day compared to how the #18 usually performs. If this keeps up, though I doubt it will, the race for the title could be wide open.

With all the hype about Busch this season, it was easy to forget about everyone else. But as I said early in the season when Hendrick Motorsports was struggling, you can never count them out. At least one of their teams can pretty much be counted on to take part in the battle for the title. They’ve won 7 titles in the past 13 years, and could easily do it again this season.

One other thing this weekend proved: California does not need two dates, and I know I'm not alone in thinking this.

Where are the Nationwide full-timers?
Only 12 drivers have run every Nationwide Series race this season. And four of those are Cup drivers. Is it just me, or did there used to be a lot more full-timers on that circuit? Maybe the Cup guys dipping down into that series have scared sponsors away from these Nationwide-only teams. If so, that’s really a shame.

Fun on Belle Isle
I didn’t make it out to take part myself, but I hope some of you Metro-Detroit auto racing fans made it out to Belle Isle for the Indycar race this weekend. With the city in the news nationwide for a lot of bad news about the mayor and the auto industry, it’s nice when these kind of events come around and the public can forget about all that, gather and have a good time. I remember watching Alex Zanardi win a CART race in Detroit about 10 years ago, and even though I wasn’t that into Indycar I still had a great time hanging out and drinking a couple overpriced Stroh’s. There used to be Formula 1 races downtown when I was a young lad. My nearly impossible pipe dream is that whoever takes over for Kwame could make that happen again.

Chase lineup unchanged
Not much happened here. Clint Bowyer finished just ahead of David Ragan, and still has a 17-point lead over the Roush driver. Kasey Kahne is the only other driver with a mathematical shot at the Chase, and he’s 48 points out so his chances are slim. Ragan and Kahne have one more chance, next week at Richmond, to make something happen or they won’t have a shot at the title.

Happy holiday
Happy Labor Day to all. Enjoy it and try not to work too hard.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to skip any sleep aids and go replay the race on TiVo. That should get me to sleep pretty quickly.


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