With a 13th-place finish at Talladega on Sunday, five-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson overtook Matt Kenseth for the Chase points lead. After finishing 20th, Kenseth is now four points behind the Hendrick Motorsport stalwart.
Jamie McMurray drove his Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet to the checkered flag at the Camping World RV at the famed track, as the race finished under yellow. This helped him hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was right on his tail at the time of the caution.
It was a nice win for McMurray, but he's going to have a hard time grabbing headlines with Johnson taking the lead:
Jamie McMurray wins the #NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Jimmie Johnson led a race high 47 laps & takes points lead from Matt Kenseth— Karen Loftus (@kcloftus) October 20, 2013
You can view the full results here, and I have the finishing position for the Chase drivers in the updated standings below:
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2202||2|
While Talladega's penchant for providing the "big one" always means this race can author a massive shakeup to the standings, the big one never came and neither did the shakeup.
The championship picture looks largely the same as it did prior to the race.
This race pushes us into the second half of the Chase. There are just four races left for the season, and the way this race is shaping up, we should have a battle for the championship that extends all the way to Miami—the final race of the season
|Oct. 27||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville||Martinsville Speedway|
|Nov. 3||NSCS at Texas||Texas Motor Speedway|
|Nov. 10||NSCS at Phoenix||Phoenix International Raceway|
|Nov. 17||Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami||Homestead-Miami Speedway|
With a maximum 48 points available for each race, every driver in the Chase is still mathematically alive. However, that doesn't mean those hopes are realistic.
Kyle Busch sits just 25 points back and Kevin Harvick 26. Still, given the consistency displayed by Kenseth and Johnson, it is hard to see them giving Harvick, Busch or anyone else the opportunity to surpass them.
This championship has all the looks of it coming down to a battle between Johnson and Kenseth.
So, let's take a closer look at the two front-runners.
Who will win the championship?
Kenseth's average finish over the last four races last season was 12.5. Johnson's was 17.5 after he slumped to the end with a 32nd and 36th in his last two races. He won both races immediately proceeding that closing stretch.
However, Kenseth would be wise not to bank on Johnson slumping to the end this season. He typically runs well at Phoenix and has often put an end to the race for the championship at Phoenix.
In fact, in 2006, which was under the old points system, Johnson took a 17-point lead on Matt Kenseth as the two drivers entered the November Phoenix race. Johnson finished second and Kenseth 13th.
Given Johnson's track record, his powerhouse team and his lead in the points, I'm not predicting anything than the No. 48 powering its way to a sixth championship.