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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes folks, even Jimmie Johnson has bad luck (but he ain't dead yet))

It looked like your typical good points day in the Chase for Jimmie Johnson on Saturday night at Charlotte. He was running up front, and on pace to stay near the top of the standings.

Then, disaster struck.

While racing hard against Ryan Newman, Johnson lost control and hit the wall hard -- a very un-Jimmie-like move (which, of course, led to cheers from the audience; kind of weak considering he could have been seriously injured).

The result of this wreck: he is now 8th in the standings, 35 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

The first reaction by many cheering for a non-Jimmie title this year is to declare that this is the nail in the coffin for his title hopes -- that he can't possibly pass 7 other drivers and make up that many points.

But that wouldn't be the smart thing to do, because after all, this is Jimmie Johnson. He is still the five-time defending champ and is capable of knocking off five wins to end the season. And don't forget, Talladega is one of those five races, and anything can happen there -- including big wrecks that could take out his competition and move him up in the standings.

So while there is some reason for hope in the anyone but Jimmie crowd (a crowd to which I am proud to belong; as it's simply not good for the sport to have a dominant driver) -- there is no need to go overboard.

It's true that Edwards, Harvick, Kyle Busch and a few others are much more likely at this point to win it than Johnson, but the key point to remember is we are only halfway through this very unique Chase. With no dominant driver and a bunch of weird stuff like fuel mileage races happening, there's no telling what the future holds for Jimmie and his competition.

One more bad race with a finish in the 30s, and Johnson's title hopes will be dead (which can already be said about Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin). But until then, you can't count him out.

Kenseth a contender
Matt Kenseth is known for being consistently good, but not necessarily winning a lot of races. Well, now he's trying to do both. With his win at Charlotte, he served notice to his competition that he is definitely in the hunt for title No. 2 ... as he sits third in points, just 7 points out of the lead.

Kenseth's name is not mentioned as much as some of his higher-profile competition, but he's OK with that.

“It doesn’t really matter to me that much what everybody thinks. We’re in it or out of it or whatever," Kenseth said. "What’s important to me is trying to win races and trying to be competitive and go do the best job we can do every week. I don’t really care about Wii dance offs or how much coverage you get for doing certain things. If somebody wants to say I’m boring or whatever, I was hired to try to go win races and try to run good and that’s what I try to do every week. I take my job real serious when I’m at the race track. Jimmy and I and all the guys work as hard as we can on the common goal of trying to be the best and trying to win and trying to run for a championship and that’s who we are at the race track.”

That kind of business-like attitude is why Kenseth is a legitimate threat this year, so key an eye on him the next five weeks.

Some facts about Kenseth's win:
-- It was the 7th win of the season for Ford
-- Kenseth took the checkered flag for the 21st time in his Cup Series career
-- It was the second time at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a points event (the first came in 2000, when he won the Coke 600 as a rookie).
-- The win is the seventh of the season for Ford Racing, equaling the total of the last two years combined.
-- The win was the 125th all-time NSCS win for Roush Fenway Racing.
-- This marks the first NSCS win for Ford at Charlotte Motor Speedway since 2002, when Mark Martin won the Coca-Cola 600.

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