By Joe Dunn
With 4 races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup second place Greg Biffle sit 149 points behind Johnson. Unless Jimmie finishes out of the top 20 in half of the remaining races, and Biffle wins a couple, the Title is all but determined.
If he does win the Championship, this will be three in a row for Johnson and again he has had a less than stellar first 26 races. It is apparent that Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus have got a handle on the Chase like no other team. Like last year, they did enough through the first 26 weeks to be in place to qualify for the Chase. But once the Chase begins, they seem to kick it into overdrive and excel at the very time that matters. Are they the only team to have this figured out? It appears so, even teammate Jeff Gordon seems to be faltering at the very time that he needs to pick up the pace.
The 2008 season began with a whirlwind as Ryan Newman quickly clinched his first Daytona 500 with fellow Penske driver Kurt Bush pushing him across the line. But the fire at Penske quickly flickered as both teams steadily fell in the standings. Next came Kyle Bush, the young hothead that Rick Hendrick discarded at the end of 2007 to make room for Dale Jr. Moving over to Joe Gibbs racing and taking the 18 car, which had slide to oblivion since Bobby Labonte left the team a few years back, Kyle was looking for redemption. His star was so bright that he quickly shadowed all of the Hendrick teams as well as his own teammates at JGR. Heading into the Chase, young Bush had such an insurmountable lead that he was quickly considered a shoe for the Championship.
But the race number 27 came, and the beginning of the 10 race shootout. The Kyle Bush star all but extinguished as mechanical failures quickly moved him from the lead, to the tail and at this point with zero chance of winning. Dale Jr., whose fans longed for his comeback, looked to 2008 and HMS as his chance for redemption. Surely with the best equipment in Nascar, and the full support of HMS, he was destined for his first championship. But as the season progressed, it appeared that although he was able to run steadily up front, maintaining third in the points for a majority of the season, he was never a serious threat.
Carl Edwards was a serious threat throughout the season remaining in the number two spot for many weeks. With the beginning of the Chase, Edwards fought a touch battle to stay up front with Johnson and after week 2 took over the lead. But three straight weeks of problems pushed Carl back to where he stand now, nearly 200 points out of the lead with only 4 races left.
Like him or not, it’s about all over but the shouting as it looks to be Championship number three for Jimmie Johnson. Always a fan of the underdog, I still hope for a big surprise that will give us a NEW Champion this year, but I sure won’t hold my breath.
From the Crossville Chronicle – Crossville, TN October 22, 2008