Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Champ is Here

This weekend, Jimmie Johnson reminded us why he's won the past 5 championships.  On his way to a victory in the Hollywood Casino 400, Johnson led 197 of the 272 laps run.  His Chase surge has continued, and Jimmie finds himself third in points, 4 points back of first place.  It wasn't all smooth sailing for Johnson though.  He had to hold off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne on the final restart.  After disposing of Kahne, Johnson had no problem winning career race No. 55.  He is now tied for 8th all-time with NASCAR Great and ESPN Analyst Rusty Wallace.

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his 2nd win of 2011 (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Chase hopeful Carl Edwards had a very eventful day.  After qualifying second, he began to fall back as soon as the green flag fell.  At one point, he found himself one lap down.  But by the end of the race, he was back up in the Top 10.  On the final lap, he and Kevin Harvick were racing hard for 5th place, which was the difference between first and second in points.  Carl Edwards now finds himself atop the points standings, one point ahead of Kevin Harvick.  Only two other Chase drivers finished inside the Top 10; Brad Keselowski was third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.

6 other Chasers finished from 11-20.  Kyle Busch (11th), Kurt Busch (13th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14th), Tony Stewart (15th), Denny Hamlin (16th), and Ryan Newman (18th) all finished inside the Top 20.  Jeff Gordon was the only Chase driver to actually run into some trouble during the race.  With about 2 laps to go, Gordon blew his engine, which led to a disappointing finish of 34th.  Gordon fell to 47 points back in the standings, and it now seems that the Drive for 5 is over for 2011.

Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet billows smoke after the engine lets go (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
 After Kansas, the Chase was shaken up some more, with the Top 7 drivers all switching spots.  Kyle Busch, who many thought would challenge Johnson for the Championship, finds himself in 8th place, 20 points behind the leader.  If he is going to challenge for the title, he is going to have to win at least 1 race to get himself back in contention.  Following his win, Jimmie Johnson moved up to 3rd in points, and now finds himself only 4 points out of the top spot.  Here are the points following Kansas, courtesy of

Following this race, it seems Jimmie Johnson has returned to Championship form, and looks poised to win his 6th Consecutive Championship.  Kasey Kahne was strong at the end of the race, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a race before his time at Red Bull Racing is over.  Mark Martin finished 10th, after running strongly all weekend.  It would be nice to see Mark get one last victory before leaving Hendrick Motorsports.  He has not announced where he will be next year, but he will not be running full-time in the Cup Series.

Next weekend, the Cup Series rolls into Charlotte for the last Saturday Night race of the season.  Jimmie Johnson is always strong at Charlotte, and this time should be no different.  After Chase race 4 of 10, he seems to be back in championship form.  We'll see what will happen next week, and see who will come even closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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