Wrapped Up, but Not Wiped Out

Charlie TurnerSenior Writer INovember 13, 2008

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OK, so we’re one episode away from conclusion of the 2008 Jimmie Johnson show. All the Hendrick gear in my possession aside, even I’m bored with this. Nothing against JJ, Chad or crew, but even my 16-year-old Baby Ruth T-shirt is fresher than this act.

And it doesn’t even fit any more. While their accomplishments the past three seasons are nothing short of miraculous, and like it or not deserve all the press and praise, there’s one thing that comes to mind that a wide old man once told me.

“Luke, you just can’t eat a steak every night for life and not expect it to get old and lose it’s luster. Sometimes you just need a good chicken dinner to liven it up.”

While a beat offbeat, it rings true for many situations. Including this one. As remarkable of an accomplishment as this will be, barring something to knock Jimmie to a 37th or worse finish, fans are looking to the menu for some chicken.

They have shown it with empty seats at places which tend to sell out, or close to it. They have shown it through television ratings, as well as related purchases. While the current economic times play a part, those didn’t really enter the picture until mid to late summer where it would have a huge impact.

Many curse the Chase, although Johnson would still be leading by 56 points. That aside, he would only be heading to Championship No. 1, not No. 3.

I read an interesting article yesterday, with some interesting concepts on how bad it is and how it could be fixed. Problem being: “One must recognize, and accept, there is a problem before work can begin to fix it.” — Luke

A few decent ideas thrown around, for sure.

So while we witnessed the last to final episode of the 2008 season of the Jimmie and Chad show, it wasn’t all about the Chasers.

Jamie McMurray continued his romp and stomp with another Top-five and third-place finish. Kurt Busch, hanging it all out, finished second, with David Ragan closing out the Top-10. 30 percent of your Top-10 were not in the Chase. Surprise, surprise.

With fond memories (thank you Truck Series) from Phoenix in our rearview mirrors, we’re pulling into Homestead with one thing on everyone’s mind. Vacation. Yes, you read that right. Time off. No tracks, no press, no worries. At least for a few days anyway, as work for 2009 has already begun.

Think I’m kidding? Kurt Busch and company tested this past Tuesday at the new half-mile “Little Rock”, at Rockingham, getting ready for 2009. No joke.

Homestead is, well, it’s a track. Much like many others composing the meat of the current schedule. It’s a 1.5 mile “cookie-cutter”, and it’s owned by ISC. There you have it. In an effort to improve racing they put in graduated banking, seeing action for the first time in 2003.

Las Vegas did the same thing just two years ago, in fact. While the show improved, it’s about like watching Johnson hoist the Cup this Sunday.

The cookie track that tried, tried, and tried again has been the “House of Roush” for years. In fact, Greg Biffle is three for four in the past four years here, only losing out to Matt Kenseth in the 2007 showdown when he beat Kurt Busch to the line by .852 seconds. Biffle wound up 13th.

If one had to put some non-Chasers in the Top-10, you can’t help but pick Jamie McMurray and David Ragan. With momentum and history coming into play, they’re odds on favorites to crack the Top-10.

Kurt Busch again? I’m not so sure. Top-20, maybe, but he’s pulling an average just inside the Top-30 for tracks of this nature this year. Needless to say, when they’re on, they’re on. When they’re off, they’re really off. There hasn’t really been an in between at this type of track for the No. 2 Dodge.

Looking for that ever elusive third possibility, I’ll throw you two and you can take your pick. It’s not out of the question that it could be Kasey Kahne or Travis Kvapil. Yes, I said Travis Kvapil.

Come back next week for the final wrapup on what was the non-Chase 2008.