The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Will Stewart's Fuel Tank Dictate His Future? Johnson's Chase Over? And... by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday September 20, 2010

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If Jimmie is looking for his No. 48’s usual perfection, he doesn’t have far to search.

With One Race, Clint Bowyer Has Become A Chase Favorite
FACT

OK, I’ll admit Clint Bowyer was not on my list of championship contenders in this column a week ago. I predicted that he’d have a good run at New Hampshire, but in this very space I claimed that he wouldn’t be able to maintain success through a full ten races. Well, folks, I’m changing my mind. With his maximum points gained Sunday in New Hampshire, Bowyer has jumped ten spots in the standings to second and is now only 35 behind series leader Denny Hamlin. Not only that, but the No. 33 has recorded four consecutive top 10s since his unofficial playoff to make the Chase started one month ago. The fact is that this team has had to treat every race as do-or-die for the last 30 days, toughening them up for the postseason; and now that they do have that first win out of the way, Bowyer should make life very difficult for the likes of Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch. Every year, there is one driver who catches fire come Chase time… this one, it’s Clint Bowyer.

Jimmie Johnson’s Golden Horseshoe is Gone
FICTION

Perhaps the biggest story out of New Hampshire wasn’t Bowyer’s surprisingly dominant win, or Tony Stewart’s heartbreaking finish, but the fact that Jimmie Johnson finished 25th and dropped to seventh in points. September is his time of the year and New Hampshire is his type of track… but don’t give up on him quite yet. His 92-point deficit is nothing compared to the 139 markers back he was in 2006 after New Hampshire, and keep in mind he swept both Dover events one year ago. Many may be rooting for the championship streak to be over, but given the No. 48 team’s history, one race is not enough to kick the champs to the curb.

Your Biggest Chase Spoiler is Jamie McMurray
FACT

I have long believed that if Jamie McMurray had snuck into the Chase playoff, he would’ve been a force to be reckoned with. Well, after one race, McMurray has backed me up — finishing third on Sunday. The No. 1 team has been hit or miss all season, but there is no denying that the team has stepped up when it counts. And guess what? The Chase races are among the biggest this season, no matter what the EGR driver says outside the car. Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and the No. 42 team have said they are treating the final ten races and keeping track of points as if they’re in the Chase. If McMurray and Co. do the same, I predict they’d see what could have been a top-7 or top-8 season. I’m not ready to say this car could have been a championship contender, but one year from now I wouldn’t be surprised if they are.

Tony Stewart’s Fuel Debacle Will Dictate His Chase
FACT

As soon as Tony Stewart ran out of fuel approaching the white flag, and after realizing that Clint Bowyer was going to sneak out a well-deserved win, I immediately said to myself, “Stewart’s done.” Obviously, Smoke at that point had no shot at a Chase win, but after limping to a 24th-place finish and dropping to 11th in points I couldn’t help but think his Chase hopes are gone as well. Stewart traditionally heats up at this time of year, but still there was nothing that really screamed out to me “Champion.” More so now considering his hole, I find it almost impossible for Stewart to climb back into contention without a couple of victories, and I just don’t see the No. 14 winning multiple races anytime soon. If somebody is going to climb up from the back, it’ll be the reigning four-time champ Jimmie Johnson – not the second-year driver/owner Stewart.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
FREE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER! SENT RIGHT TO YOUR EMAIL INBOX! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: New Hampshire-2 Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: Does Big Mo Mean Big Things For Bowyer?
Bubble Breakdown: Robby Returns To Fight Front Row … But Did It Work?
Running Their Mouth: Sylvania 300
Tracking The Trucks: RaceDayRaffleSeries.com 175

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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Gordon82Wins
09/20/2010 06:59 AM
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I hope Bowyer does win it. He could split his winnings with Brian France for giving him 600 points.

Bill B
09/20/2010 07:17 AM
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Yep and the rule is “give the 12th place guy 600 points”.

Carl D.
09/20/2010 08:02 AM
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I agree that Jimmie Johnson is still has a legitimate shot at the championship. Still, I think the the level of competition this year is much higher than it was in 2006. Johnson will need 9 stellar finishes and some bad luck by the other chasers to win championship #5.

VolcanoNacho
09/20/2010 10:48 AM
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Jimmy is doing fine. It might come down to the last race, but there is no reason to think he wont win #5 and cement himself as the best driver ever.

Mike
09/20/2010 10:52 AM
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Jimmy displayed his true driving talent at Loudon . When he hasn’t got the superior car he’s left with only his driving ability . Was there any car he didn’t run into ? Reminded me of the Talladega races where he could always be counted on to cause a huge crash .

Tim
09/20/2010 11:35 AM
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Any moron who says jimmie freakin’ johnson is one of the best drivers ever because he’s one 4 “fake” championships, well…they’re an even bigger moron than they thought they were!!!! Clueless!!!!

NascarTuna
09/20/2010 11:58 AM
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Question: How can you be a bigger moron than you thought you were? I dont even know what that means.

Don Mei
09/20/2010 12:18 PM
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Wouldnt we all love it if every damn remaining race was won by non chase guys.. McMurray, Martin, Keselowski, Juan Pablo, Dale Jr., etc. What a hoot! Imagine Brian and his retinue making up new rules on the spot excluding non chase drivers from collecting points!! Oh well, one can dream. Its really difficult for me to take this so called “championship” seriously! Go Jamie! Kick some butt!!!

Carl D.
09/20/2010 12:55 PM
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My ex-wife assures me that I’m an even bigger moron than I could possibly imagine.

Jacob
09/20/2010 10:30 PM
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I have to disagree about Tony being out already. The ONLY team in the Chase likely to put together 10 straight top-10s is the #48, and they already failed to do it as well. The way this year is shaping up there will be a lot of chasers finishing between 5-15, and Tony doesn’t need to win multiple races to climb to the top. BUT, he can’t have any more bad days. One more finish like yesterday’s and Smoke is toast!!!

laxbro
09/20/2010 10:36 PM
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uh that would be WON Tim…looks like the pot calling the kettle black

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