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Woody: Hiccups Are Seldom Fatal

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 9 2009
Jimmie Johnson ran into trouble – and a wall – but will that affect the outcome of the Chase? (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson ran into trouble – and a wall – but will that affect the outcome of the Chase? (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Ok, so he hit a pothole. A Texas-sized pothole.

But anybody – including the Boys in the Booth – who thinks Jimmie Johnson’s hiccup Sunday means he’s about to let the championship slip through his fingers better think again.

Yeah, he wiped out early in the race and wobbled home 38th. So?

In golf it’s called a bogey. Even Tiger makes one occasionally.

Instead of dwelling on all the points Johnson lost, the real story is how many he still has left – namely, a 73-point lead over Mark Martin, 112 over Jeff Gordon.

With just two races to go, that’s a whopper of a lead.

Look at it this way: If the Hendrick Trio had gone into Texas tied for the points lead and Jimmie had come out with a 73-point lead with two to go, this morning everybody would be yapping about how he’s clinched the title.

I still am. Yapping, I mean.

I said before Texas that Johnson had it locked and I still feel the same way.

This illustrates why Johnson’s before-Texas 184-point lead was so significant. It gave him plenty of breathing room. It allowed him to stub his toe. It gave him a big cushion, a comfortable margin of error.

Granted he’s used up his mulligan, but he shouldn’t need another.

If there were six or eight races to go, things might be a tad tense in the Johnson camp. But not with just two. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.

Last week I wrote that the Chase – which I’ve always supported – has been a total fizzle in ’09. The Dandy Dozen quickly dwindled to four of five challengers. Now it’s down to three – one, really.

I suspect that we’ll go into the season finale at Homestead Miami in two weeks with only Martin clinging to Johnson’s shirttail.

Barring a total Johnson collapse this weekend at Phoenix, I imagine Gordon will be dealt out and Martin will be holding a losing hand.

The story at Texas was not that Johnson squandered so many points; the story was that Johnson had been so dominate during the previous seven Chase races that he had plenty of points to squander.

Johnson’s Texas trouble added a dab of drama, but it doesn’t warrant the “It’s a Whole New Chase” hype that we’re seeing. A 73-point lead with two to go and only one driver in his rear-view mirror?

Jimmie still has it in the bag.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 9 2009
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Marc says:

    “It’s a Whole New Chase”, with in all probability the same ending we’ve seen the last three years.

    Obviously it would take another early race crash or terminal engine problems for the 48 to lose the lead with 2 events left.

    But hey, if the Johnson “haters” feel better, if only for a little while, so be it.

    In the end this years Chase will be either a coronation of a four time champ for the first time or a barn burning finish as M. Martin gains his first Cup.

    Either way NASCAR is a winner.