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Minter: There’s Something Familiar About Chase

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 6 2010

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson, two big players in the Chase, talked during a break in practice at Kansas Speedway last weekend. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Despite all the hype about the most competitive Chase ever, the storyline for this year’s title run appears headed for an old familiar line as Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 team are beginning to look like the same outfit that won the past four in a row.

Johnson already has endured one bad finish expected of every Chaser. His was a 25th at New Hampshire. Take that out of the picture and his average Chase finish this year is 1.5. Then factor in that the next three tracks on the schedule are among his best historically. He’s won four of the past six races at California and was second and ninth on his off days. At Charlotte, while he’s struggled some of late, he did win last fall and has six victories in all there. And at Martinsville, he has six career wins, and except for his first start there he has never finished worse than ninth.

One of his potential challengers, Kyle Busch, suffered a setback because of his run-in with David Reutimann at Kansas. And another, Denny Hamlin, hasn’t shown the dominance he did earlier this year.

And then there’s the one Chase driver that has a little good ‘ol boy in him – Clint Bowyer. He won at New Hampshire to vault to second in points, but now he’s out of the hunt because of a 150-point penalty related to a violation on the Car of Tomorrow, the vehicle the sport’s good ‘ol boy fans just can’t seem to like.

Where’s Johnny? Watching the cars go up down and around at Road Atlanta this past weekend made one wonder why Corvette driver Johnny O’Connell never shows up as a ringer at NASCAR road races. His credentials appear as strong or stronger than the road racers who often land good rides at Infineon and Watkins Glen. And he’s used to racing a fairly heavy Corvette that should be at least a little bit similar to a NASCAR racer. So why no Johnny O in NASCAR?

“I’d love to do it, but I was never presented the opportunity, which is somewhat surprising considering my record in sports cars,” he said. “I have more wins at Le Mans and Sebring and more championships than the guys that do those races, but nobody ever called me.”

Trucks Hauling Fans: The overnight ratings for the Cup race from Kansas followed a familiar trend of late  – down. The 2.1 rating was down from last year’s 2.6, which rose to a 3.2 in the final rating.

But there’s good news in the TV numbers for hard-core racing fans. Despite a runaway points battle – Todd Bodine leads runner-up Aric Almirola by 262 points – the TV numbers of late for the Camping World Truck Series have been impressive.

The most recent race, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, scored a Nielsen rating of .54, up 17 percent from last year.

The down spots for the truck series, ratings-wise, came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, where rain was an issue and at Gateway International Speedway, where the race had to be postponed when the track lights wouldn’t come on.

But recent weeks have seen strong viewership, with increases in ratings for five of the past eight races. The Pocono broadcast was up 78 percent over last year. Darlington up 19 percent, Bristol up 3, and Kentucky 115. Since July, truck series ratings are up 10 percent year-to-year, according to a release from SPEED, the network that airs the truck races.

The trucks will be back on the track on Oct. 23 at Martinsville Speedway.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 6 2010
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