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Woody: It’s Do It Or Lose It Time

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 21 2009
Jimmie Johnson is pulling away from the field. It's now or won't for teams trying to deprive Johnson of a fourth-straight championship.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson is pulling away from the field. It's now or won't for teams trying to deprive Johnson of a fourth-straight championship. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It’s soul-search, gut-check, look-in-the-mirror time for at least eight of the 12 drivers in the Chase for the Championship Sunday at Martinsville.

If they don’t make a move – and I mean a MAJOR move – they can kick it in cruise control and just go through the motions the rest of the way. They’re out. Game over.

Any driver who’s outside the Top 4 with four races to go doesn’t have a prayer.

And, frankly, if Jimmie Johnson keeps turning it on the way has the last two races, it’s over anyway. Jimmie the Jet will be long gone. Everybody else will be racing for crumbs and leftovers.

Mark Martin stumbled last week and unless he regains his balance at Sunday his title dream may be over. Jeff Gordon has been hot, but he needs to at least maintain at Martinsville to remain in contention.

That leaves 4th-place Tony Stewart as the only challenger with a serious hope of catching Johnson unless someone 5th and on back can make a miracle charge. That’s not likely, given the sputtering, erratic performances of most of the Chasers so far.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the story of the Chase at this juncture has been how utterly non-competitive it has been. Everybody anticipated sparks and fireworks and instead we’ve got a lot of “racers” driving like Miss Daisy.

I recently wrote about how stunning has been the lack of effort – or at least lack of results – among the non-Chase drivers. Some fan immediately chimed in about well Matt Kenseth has done. He noted Matt has actually run in the top five at times. Wow. In the top five. Stop the presses.

I think that mind-set tells it all.

I remember a time when a driver would be peeved to finish fifth; now they seem proud of it.

Bobby Allison was once asked about finishing a close second in a race. Bobby growled that the second-place finisher is merely the first loser to cross the line.

Today too many drivers are racing for points and top-fives instead of racing to win. That’s what’s got NASCAR in the fix it’s in: boring races, low attendance and dipping TV ratings.

No disrespect to Matt Kenseth, whom I’ve always liked, but who cares about a top-five finish? I don’t think many fans sit around debating about who was the greatest top-five driver in history.

Likewise, who cares who finishes 5th in the final standings? Who finished 5th last year? Who knows? Who cares?

There’s too many drivers satisfied with fifth place, and that’s the problem.

Unless a lot of them undergo an attitude adjustment, and soon, that’s where they’re  destined to finish. They’ll spend the final four races running out the clock while choking on Jimmie Johnson’s dust.

For everyone 5th on back, their already-faint hopes have come down to this weekend. It’s Martinsville or bust.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 21 2009


  • keith says:

    Jim just to let you know that Dale Jr has 18 Career wins the same as Matt I don’t think he is as good of a driver as Matt but stop bashing people like Woody.

  • Jim Baker says:

    You rip on Matt Kenseth in the only year he is not a chase driver. True, he doesn’t win a bunch of races every year, but nearly every year he wins and he has won 18 times. How many wins does Dale Jr have? Why not rip on Junior for being satisfied with 5th when he doesn’t win? Matt is a realist. He knows almost every driver out there is capable of winning as often as Jimmie does, if they could just drive a Hendrick car for Chad Knaus. Matt is trying to win every race, but most of the time, he is forced to settle for what he can get with his car. Nothing wrong with that. Besides, the whiner Denny Hamlin is right, it no longer matters how well you race in the first 26 races because you lose all those points when the Chase starts. Now, you can be Kyle Busch and win 4 races and come within 8 points of being seeded first for the chase. The cup is supposed to be awarded for the best performance over the course of the season. Maybe a tweaking of the points system could help the winners get relatively more for their wins, but this Chase crap cheapens the Cup. Dump on NASCAR, not Matt. They created this boring format, not Matt. Don’t throw out a one liner about how you like Matt and then trash him to support your lame thesis about how the non-chasers don’t put out.

  • No one should be racing for fifth right now. It’s understandable in the first 26 races, but not right now, especially given the way that certain teams have performed in the first five races of the Chase.