Don't look now but NASCAR's new Jeff Gordon in terms of arrogance and divisiveness, Jimmie Johnson, last won a race (gasp) six weeks ago.
He has had the following finishes:
Watkins Glen: 28th
What the hell happened? Forget about winning a race, right now he can barely manage a top-ten and most of the time, he cannot. Too good to be true? Given that, many observations can be made.
First, before he won at Sonona, the well-polished politically correct posterboy had never won a road course race.
Given his finish at Watkins Glen, is there any wonder why fans, especially traditional fans would like to see at least one such track added to the Chase?
Next, look at the tracks.
How many of these are the hated "cookie cutter" (1.5 mile D-shaped oval boring tracks)? The answer is one-Chicago.
Michigan and its super two mile fuel mileage/strategy course? In Jimmie's rearview mirror.
Pocono and its "tricky triangle" with the exciting long straight-aways? Done till next year.
Daytona? Heh, Johnson only has to worry about one restrictor plate track, Talladega, and that wonderful x-factor of a track doesn't come until week seven of the controversial Chase, which at that point, Jimmie should not only be back in his 'rightful' (sarcasm) throne in first—but the race comes too late to affect the standings.
Consider the tracks before it.
Kansas (cutter) - Week three.
Charlotte (cutter) - Week five.
Johnson already got them in the bag.
Week one at New Hampshire? Forget about it. Johnsob doesn't win and doesn't need to win the first few races.
In 2006 when this crap first began, Johnson didn't pick up his first Chase win until the sixth race at Martinsville. However, that one win bumped him four spots in the standings from seventh-to-third, setting everything up for the eventual kill.
This time however, Johnson actually fell in points from the leader to second after week four. Still, since he was seeded No. 1 due to a series-high 10 wins, six pre-chase, he didn't have as far to climb.
Hence, when he reeled off a sickening four straight wins from weeks 6-9 that was all she wrote and this jerk had his second consecutive title.
In 2008 Jimmie entered as the third seed having four 'regular season' wins, but this time only had to wait until week three at a cutter track to get his first win!
Good old Kansas! Thanks, NASCAR!
But you guessed it, he got a much needed win at ol' reliable Martinsville in route to thee "Chase" wins and his third title, tying Cale Yarborough which is sad.
In 2009, as a three seed, Johnson picked up his first post-season win at any time earlier, week two at the Monster Mile in Dover. While he did not win at Martinsvile, winning two of the next three weeks really helped things before he got his final win, week nine in Phoenix the same track he had won the year before.
Lesson learned, take him out before he gets to his safety net in Martinsville. Also, beating him at Phoenix would help too but he doesn't need the first few weeks to beat you.
Never has, never will.
A DNF right off the bat at New Hampshire would cause NASCAR to have heart-failure, which might explain why the friendly-confines of a 1.5 mile cutter in Chicago might have ultimately taken its place to kick off the 2011 Chase.
Lets look at the projected 2011 Chase schedule;
Week One: Chicago-cutter 'nuff said.
Week Two: New Hampshire 1.036mil—Johnson doesn't need this track.
Week Three: Dover again, Jimmie doesn't need this track to win history shows.
Week Four: Kansas: Johnson's third favorite Chase track next to M'Ville and Phoenix.
Week Six: Talladega: Well at least they moved this only real threat up. Maybe our only hope at a wildcard track.
Week Seven: Martinsville, if anything happens in 'Bama this old friend will surely bail him out and tell the other drivers whose really back on top as his career average finish is 5.4
Week Eight: Texas, ah, another cutter to add insult to injury and salt to anti-Johnson foes.
Week Nine: Phoenix-boring track that Johnson already has down pat. Where's the challenge?
Week 10: Homestead-Miami. Even though he's never won here, cutter should at least give him a solid finish and thus, help his Championship chances should they actually be in jeopardy-think again.
So, the number of cutters actually increase from four-to-five next year and Martinsville and Phoenix which the latter is basically the same and to which Johnson already dominates, and Martinsville which I've beaten into the ground, remain in his back pocket as well.
Awesome. Should be a fun Chase next year.
And NASCAR wonders why their popularity and ratings are crashing?
Many will note the "conflicts" Johnson has had with his protector and Crew Chief-wingman Chad Knaus at Pocono when pit road strategy cost them a lap under caution as Knaus told the crew over the radio, "don't worry about it now, just get it right" to that effect, and last week at Michigan when the team had a 16.5 second pit stop.
A friend watching with me told me something very telling.
What if Jimmie doesn't care where he finishes, rather he's just playing it safe and trying to figure things out and try new things in preparation for the Chase?
As long as he doesn't get a DNF or two, who cares if he gets 12th or 20th? Its all the same to him as the Chase is where he makes his money.
In 2006 and 2007 the Chase format screwed teammate Jeff Gordon out of two more Championships.
In 2008 it bit eight race winner Kyle Busch who didn't even qualify and last year, Tony Stewart who would have had this thing sewed up having a 326 point lead under the old system, lost it to—guess who.
Kevin Harvick, I hope you enjoyed last week's win and your comeback season to date. Its sadly, likely gonna get you too.
Ah, the Chase. You know, the format where at 18 career wins, he's got almost three times as many as his next closest "competition" to Carl Edwards' seven.
Edwards you know, the guy that hasn't won himself since Homestead 2008, 59 races ago.
How's that for fair?
Drive for five? Try, drive for as many as he wants until fan apathy forces yet more chances to be made.
Information and statistics from ESPN.com, wikipedia, and Yahoo! Sports directly contributed to the content of this article.
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