Stewart has win within his sights, but Johnson shuts the door
Let’s just contrast today’s race with last week, when Jimmie Johnson pretty much led every lap and there was no competition for the lead whatsoever. Today, the number of leaders was in double-digits, and (shocker!) there was competitive passing for the lead. That’s how racing is supposed to be, and if NASCAR/ISC decides to build any new tracks, they should build them more like Richmond and less like California. Go with what works.
Johnson came out on top today, also. But it was much more exciting, as he held off a hard-charging Tony Stewart in fierce battle that lasted about a dozen laps. Stewart would seem to get the advantage going into the turns, but once they emerged Johnson had enough position to keep the lead every time. This kind of nail-biting action isn’t something you see every week, and it’s why I love Richmond so much.
Speaking of Stewart, I could almost see the smoke coming from Tony’s ears as he was throwing things around his car after the race. Winning is what matters most to Stewart. When he comes that close and can’t finish the job, I wouldn’t want to go within 100 feet of him. I didn’t see a post-race interview with Smoke, and that’s probably good for the ESPN reporters. Somebody would of ended up with an earful of enraged Tony Stewart, and possibly some physical repercussions if they asked the wrong question.
After taking his second straight win heading into the Chase, Jimmie Johnson is echoing last year, when he did the same thing and went on to win four straight races in the Chase and the championship. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and possibly a couple other guys will have something to say about that, but anyone counting Jimmie out is ignoring reality.
The loudest cheer of the day had to come when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was battling Kyle Busch about halfway through the race and Busch ended up sideways and a lap down. Busch officially became NASCAR’s villain this year this spring at Richmond when he crashed Jr. to win the race. So you know Jr.’s fans were beaming with pride when Jr. returned the favor, regardless of whether it was intentional on the part of Jr.. (It looked to me like Busch initiated the contact, but I could see the other side). Speaking of Jr., he had his best finish since Michigan in June and has to be more positive heading into the Chase than he was before today.
No Chase for Ragan, Kahne
David Ragan and Kasey Kahne did their best to get into the Chase, but it was not to be. It was a valiant effort on Ragan’s end, but he was bit by bad luck on all sides. He was blocked on pit lane early by Bill Elliott, then got into oil and spun on the track, and was shuffled back later in the race in another incident. (I liked his comment after Elliott blocked him: “It’s OK. He’ll be a lap down soon.”) Despite missing the Chase, Ragan has no reason to hang his head. He’s by far the most-improved driver in the garage this season, and he should be a good shot to make the Chase next season. Now he can just work on getting that first win in the last 10 races of this year.
Kahne also had a tough day, as his car was just not very strong. The GEM cars, and Dodge teams overall, have had a terrible year with the exception of the Penske 1-2 finish at Daytona. Dodge has no cars in the Chase, and word came this week that Dodge would no longer be financially supporting teams in the Truck series, essentially removing them from that series complete. If this keeps up, There could come a day when the only car makes in Nationwide and Cup are Chevy, Ford and Toyota.