Say what you will about the Hendrick teams and their performance this year, but no matter what you really think, they have been strong. Jimmy Johnson and Mark Martin “Tamed the Monster” and finished 1-2 in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway Sunday afternoon. Now, don’t think they were alone in their accomplishment because they weren’t. Matt Kenseth, Juan Montoya and Kurt Bush rounded out the top five and were ready to pounce if either Jimmy or Mark wavered in their run to the checkers.
Had it not been for a failure of an air gun in the #24 pits, Jeff Gordon could possibly have made it 1-2-3 for the top running Hendrick teams although I’m not sure whether it would have been in the same order. Jimmy and Jeff were both strong late in the race, but sometimes ‘stuff just happens’ in racing and changes your whole day. As it was, the #24 team finished a very respectable sixth place but couldn’t gain any points on the Chase leader, Mark Martin and now sits 122 points out of 1st place.
Taking a realistic look at the way the points situation looks after two Chase races, some things are pretty obvious. Mark Martin and Jimmy Johnson are beginning to separate themselves slightly from the rest of the field and continue to look like the ones to beat for the Sprint Cup Championship. Juan Montoya’s performance in the first two races shows that his team came to win and, so far, is in the same league as the top two Hendrick teams. Kurt Bush is looking to be tough right down to the end also, (although he has been whining quite a bit over the last two weeks. With what’s going on with his team, not many blame him.)
Now, I say all these nice things with only 20 percent of the Chase over with and 80 percent left to go. I hate to keep repeating myself, but, one or two races does not tell the story of a whole season or even the end of it. One or two races tells only the story so far, and anyone that’s been around Nascar much knows it is still anyone’s Cup to claim.
Looking at this latest season shows us some of the closest competition for the whole race to the Chase than any year so far. The top three pretty much separated themselves early on, but the rest of the field wasn’t decided until the last race in Richmond and it could have affected almost half the Chase field. As it turned out it only affected about the last three spots in the Chase, but the drama going into Richmond really put a lot of emphasis on finishing well.
That’s the problem (in a good way) with where the Chase is right now. After two races, the separation in points becomes harder and harder to make up for those that are falling behind unless some of the ones at the top of the standings have an extremely bad week or several not-so-good weeks in a row.
From this fan’s view, this is where it gets a bit sticky. If the races continue on as they have the last couple of weeks, the same people stay out front in the standings and the ones behind just fall further back. After the season we’ve seen so far, to me it would be a shame for that to happen. I don’t wish anyone bad luck, but this season deserves a tight finish in Homestead with at least six cars in the hunt at that last race.
Yeah, I know that puts a lot of pressure on the drivers and teams every week, but I also know this is Nascar and it, and racing in general, has a lot of unforseens and uncertainties. The unexpected has been known to happen, especially in Nascar, and it can still happen this year.
As I mentioned last time,(Nascar at Dover Prerace), racing luck can sometimes turn on a dime and no one is protected from it. Not Mark Martin, not Jimmy Johnson, not Juan Montoya and certainly not Denny Hamlin, Kurt Bush, Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon. No one is exempt from being in the wrong place at the right time and no one is exempt from something like an air gun or a crank shaft failing. It may not be likely but it can happen and it can change the way your season ends up, no matter who you are. That’s one thing I really like about Nascar and racing; You still have to show up every week and perform well enough to win… otherwise, you’re just headed to the back.
See ya next time…
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© September 30,2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman