NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Ford 400 at Homestead Edition

Each week, Frontstretch hosts a live blog during the Sprint Cup race. It’s a great way for readers to interact alongside their favorite Frontstretch writers with videos, live commentary and live polls. Four of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Homestead live blog.

ONE: With four consecutive titles, is Jimmie Johnson’s championship run the best ever?

Fan Vote – YES: 50%; NO: 50%

You can’t fault Jimmie Johnson for dominating the sport in its current points format, but nonetheless the fact that he has won four consecutive titles in the “Chase era” has allowed critics to dispel his accomplishment and put it behind Cale Yarborough’s three consecutive titles between 1976 and 1978 and possibly even Dale Earnhardt’s four in five years in the early ‘90s. Because Johnson simply needs to run well over the final 10 races as opposed to the entire schedule under the Chase format discredits the run a bit, but there is no doubting he beat the best of the best four consecutive years. I will admit it was more difficult for Yarborough to beat the likes of Richard Petty and David Pearson over a full season in the mid ‘70s, but he only did it three years… I put Johnson’s four on the same level.

TWO: Will Johnson win his fifth consecutive title next season?

Fan Vote – YES: 40%; NO: 60%

Is there really any reason to think Johnson won’t win numero cinco next season? Let’s face it, the No. 48 team has this thing figured out and the only thing that can beat them at this point is bad luck. Until NASCAR figures out a way to Johnson-proof the Chase – and I hope they don’t – year in and year out he WILL be the man to beat. Don’t get me wrong, he will have challengers – I think Denny Hamlin will be his biggest threat, along with Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and a few others, but he will be the odds on favorite. If you have a legitimate reason why you think Johnson won’t win the championship next season, I’d love to read it below in the comments section.

THREE: Did Juan Montoya need an oval win to make 2009 a successful season?

Fan Vote – YES: 14%; NO: 86%

In 2007, Juan Pablo Montoya had his best season in the Sprint Cup Series with an average finish of 21.5. Two years later the Colombian has finally figured this whole stock car racing thing out and broke out with his first Chase berth and career-best 18 top 10s and seven top fives. In what was a breakout season, Montoya finished eighth in points, but does the lack of an oval win make the 2009 season an overall failure? Heck no! In what was one of the biggest surprises of the season Montoya and Earnhardt Ganassi racing – both underdogs – together made the No. 42 team one of the toughest challengers to Johnson, Martin and the giants at Hendrick Motorsports. 2009 was anything but a disappointment for Montoya; it was proof that he can make it in NASCAR and reassured what motorsports fans everywhere already know – that he is one of the best drivers in the world.

FOUR: Do you expect the reemergence of Richard Childress Racing to carry over into 2010?

Fan Vote – YES: 87%; NO: 13%

For ¾ of the season Richard Childress Racing was a disappointment after many expected them to have at least a shot of challenging Roush-Fenway and Hendrick Motorsorts. Well, over the past month Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer have gradually put together better runs culminating with all three finishing in the top 11 on Sunday. I’m not saying they’ll be championship contenders next season, but expect the RCR banner to contend for more top fives and top 10s as they try to reach the same plateau that everybody else is in the quest for – contending with the boys at Hendrick.

FIVE: Putting a bow on a rather lackluster season

Perhaps it was sign from above when the 2009 season opener symbolized what was to become this year – the rain-shortened Daytona 500 made the sport’s biggest race rather, well, boring. Despite Johnson running away with another championship and some of the least exciting action we’ve seen in a while, the season still had its share of moments. While we go into the offseason let’s try and forget the debris cautions, the lack of racing and the Johnson parade and remember the reemergence of Martin, the emergence of Montoya, the rivalries, and frankly anything that you can actually remember that was good about the sport next year. We can only hope that 2010 will be better.

Notes to Ponder

  • Rivals retaliate: Everyone expected Hamlin to dump Brad Keselowski Saturday, but the Montoya/Stewart rivalry that developed Sunday may be one to watch in 2010.
  • Poor finishes for Ambrose/Earnhardt: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another fast racecar this weekend, but once again results didn’t follow. Marcos Ambrose has been a surprise this season, but had his worst race of the year in the finale bringing out multiple cautions and finishing 35th.
  • Allmendinger stays hot: With an average finish of 11th over the final three races, the ‘Dinger showed the promise down the stretch that he flashed at the beginning of the year.
  • End of a career: Michael Waltrip’s career came to an end Sunday. He may not be the winningest driver of the era, but he is among the most recognizable.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE

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