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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Edwards impressive in win, but Johnson steals show with amazing comeback

Associated Press photo Carl Edwards celebrates after winning Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The saying goes that when someone gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

In coming back from a lap down in the back of the pack to a 2nd-place finish Sunday at Atlanta, Jimmie Johnson went one further … he took those lemons and made a SoCo and lemonade mixed drink that he ended up sipping while on the beach in Cancun.

Upon finding out that Johnson had gotten a pit road speeding penalty early in the race, contenders Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton must have been elated. But their joy was short-lived, as Johnson did what he had to do and got in the proper position for the Lucky Dog pass, and found his way onto the lead lap when a caution came out.

For a while, Johnson struggled in the middle of the pack, but then (as if we didn’t expect it) his team made another brilliant strategy move with less then 10 laps left by coming in to get fresh tires while the leaders stayed out. The move, while risky, paid off as he drove from 10th place to 2nd place in a matter of five laps, rocketing by the competition and ending up the day with a bigger points lead than he had at the start of the day.

This amazing comeback by Johnson took some of the focus away from a brilliant weekend from Carl Edwards, who was the class of the field when it mattered most and won his second race of the weekend after his victory Saturday at Memphis in the Nationwide Series.

Edwards pulled off an impressive bump-and-run pass of Denny Hamlin to take the lead toward the end the race, and no one could catch him after that. It’s a shame Edwards had that ignition problem a couple weeks ago, as I really would have liked to see him and Johnson duke it out for the title.

Sadly, that’s not to be, as Johnson shows no signs of slowing down. Book his spot at the head table in New York, as he could skip a race and still likely keep the points lead. Not to mention he’s won at all three tracks where races are scheduled, so even if one of the so-called competitors wins all three races while leading the most laps, they’ll still likely make little more than a small dent in Johnson’s lead.

Another strong run for A.J.
For the second straight week, A.J. Allmendinger had a great run in the #10 Gillette-Evernham car, which had done very little all season up to this point. He finished 14th, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the GEM team tries to keep him around if it’s at all possible economically.

Ragan putting competition on notice for ’09
After barely missing the Chase, David Ragan is putting on a great string of runs in the season’s final races. Mark my words: He will make the Chase next year and potentially be a factor. His turnaround from pinball on the track to solid, consistent driver is one of the great stories of 2008.


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