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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jimmie Johnson must be considered the favorite to win the Chase ... again

Everyone’s big on Denny Hamlin this week, coming off his big win at Richmond, saying he has the momentum going into the Chase.

Others say Brian Vickers will continue his great string of finishes and make a run at the title, or that “old man” Mark Martin will teach the kids a lesson and finally win his first title. Others say Jeff Gordon will finally finish his “drive for 5”.

Having said all that, one thing remain true: The title is Jimmie Johnson’s to lose.

He may not be on fire as much this year as he was in the past, but the incredible string of three straight titles has been no accident for the #48 team. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus always seem to get the car figured out, and that becomes even truer in the Chase. They are focused on doing whatever it takes to win, and have enough understanding of each other that it works out for them more often than not.

So while I wish the other 11 Chase drivers luck, they can not be considered the favorite in this run for a title. I don’t care who has scored the most points in the last X number of races, this is Johnson’s time to shine.

If anyone else is going to become Cup Series champion, they will have to finish ahead of Johnson, something that historically has not been very easy to do in the final 10 races of the season.

This could change, of course, if Johnson gets wrecked out of the first couple races in the Chase or something else crazy happens to put him in a hole. Then, we can start talking about who else will be the champ.

But until that day comes, the smart money has to be on Johnson. His record speaks for itself, and a desire to make history by winning four straight titles could make him unbeatable.

As a fan of the sport who likes to see change, this would be somewhat disappointing to me. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.


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