Last week I said in this column that Jimmie Johnson all but had his third consecutive title locked up; Don’t tell Carl Edwards, who is trying his best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Chasing down the series leaders in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, Edwards is riding back-to-back victories on the Cup side in an effort that has closed the deficit between he and Johnson to 106 points. Still, it appears Edwards needs Johnson to hiccup in one of the final two races to have a shot at the championship. With just two races remaining, the 1-2 drivers at the top of the standings are clearly among the hottest drivers in the series. But who else is on a roll? Who needs a good run this weekend at Phoenix? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Chase Edition to find out.
2. Look Before You Leap – Before the Teresa Earnhardt-bashing crowd warms up their vocal chords to declare that DEI would be in better shape had Dale Earnhardt Jr. been handed the reins of those race teams, they may need to consider the latest developments from Earnhardt’s race team itself. In a statement released by Kelley Earnhardt, general manager of JR Motorsports and sister of Earnhardt said, “We’ve been working aggressively to secure funding to continue with two teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The economic climate is difficult, as everyone is aware, and that is affecting every company’s ability to spend. The 2008 season will be ending in less than three weeks, and preparations for next season are already underway. We do not anticipate getting the funding required to field two teams after the end of this season, and we need to make adjustments now to prepare JR Motorsports accordingly. We are reducing our workforce and budgets to comply with a new plan for 2009, which at the present time is to field the No. 88 team full-time with driver Brad Keselowski and the No. 5 team on a limited basis with a select group of drivers.”
Carl Edwards soft-pedaled 113.5 miles out of a tank of gas to cruise across the finish line first at half throttle.
I know it’s Halloween, but… the economy is scarier and it’s hitting NASCAR hard. Some sources have as many as eight Cup teams currently racing being gone next year. NASCAR insists they won’t have any trouble filling a 43-car field, but do the math. With about 45 teams running a full or almost full schedule, take away eight and you’re left with just 37. And yet, NASCAR continues to make decisions, from scheduling to testing and beyond, that hurt the smaller teams. The way I see it, NASCAR should be doing everything to help these cars succeed, or they won’t need franchising because there will be nobody left but the big teams. That’s fine if you don’t want to fill the field every week.
Did You Notice? That under the old points system, the championship battle would be far from over? With three races left, Jimmie Johnson would lead Carl Edwards by just 98, with Kyle Busch hanging on by a thread at 203 points out. Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle would round out the top five, but neither would have a shot at the title. Should the 1-2 finish for Johnson and Edwards hold, it would be the second time in the last three years the old system would have “been better.” In 2006, Johnson won his first title over Matt Kenseth by 56 points in the Chase; but in the regular season, that margin would have been just four – the closest championship battle in NASCAR history.
Carl Edwards made good on the promise that he showed at the beginning of the spring Atlanta race by taking the win this past weekend. Overshadowed by that performance, however, was a banzai run by Jimmie Johnson from 11th to second in the last eight laps of the race. That strength solidified the points leader’s place at the top of the Power Rankings, where he swept all of the first-place votes again this week. Behind him, positions continue to swap like hotcakes as drivers scrape and claw for every spot they can get on the racetrack. Read this week’s rankings to see if our writers thought your driver has had that extra incentive to wheel it to the front with only three races left – or if he’s been slip-sliding his way right out of our Power Rankings.
This is my 50th column for Frontstretch, and with just three races to go in 2008 I’m fast approaching the end of my rookie year as a NASCAR columnist. I’m not sure the esteemed editors are quite ready to pull the Yellow Stripe off my back bumper (traditionally, the sign that denotes a first-year driver) but with the season to all intents and purposes done and dusted, and while we wait for the coronation of King Jimmie Kenneth Johnson for a third time, there isn’t much to get too excited about or indeed good topics to wax lyrical on. With that in mind, I’m going to take a look back at my third column, 10 Wishes for NASCAR Heading Into 2008 to see how many wishes the NASCAR Genie granted me. I’ll list the initial wish first, then discuss how it either broke down or went swimmingly in 2008.
ESPN’s Sprint Cup portion of its broadcast schedule for 2008 has seen its ups and downs. Unfortunately for the network, recurring mistakes have overshadowed some of its other more solid efforts. At Atlanta, however, ESPN minimized its obvious mistakes and broadcast a very consistent race. Besides the championship standings, the big story heading into the start of the event at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday was if Goodyear’s tires would allow the drivers to put on a better show than they did back in March. As the race unfolded, ESPN used several different tools to convey to its viewers the state of the racing tires and the effects on the racecars.
Carl Edwards returned to victory lane this weekend at Atlanta and is now one win behind Kyle Busch for the series lead, but Jimmie Johnson utilized late-race pit strategy for an impressive runner-up finish. The second-place run improves the No. 48 team’s stranglehold on the rest of the Chase field to 183 points, increasing the likelihood of what would be a third consecutive championship.
Johnson has garnered the most headlines since the Chase began seven races ago, but it’s one of his teammates who has quietly been one of the most consistent drivers right along with him. To see who that is and who else has been strong as of late, check out this week’s version of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Chase Edition.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.