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Woody: Going, Going…Is Jimmie Gone?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 9 2010

Things are pointing toward another successful Chase for Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson this year. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Sometimes it seems that Jimmie Johnson is toying with the rest of the field.

In the opening Chase race at New Hampshire he finished 25th and dropped to seventh in the standings.

Laptops and tongues were clicking. Were there suddenly cracks in the flawless team? Was the magic ride over? Was this the beginning of the end for Johnson’s bid for a fifth straight championship?

At the very least (the experts crowed) Jimmie had a deep, dark hole from which to extract himself. He had just nine races left in which to dig out and fight his way past the six drivers ahead of him.

So what happened? He thundered out the next week at Dover, won the race, and vaulted all the way up to second in the standings.

Last Sunday Johnson followed his Dover haymaker with a Kansas upper-cut (second place) and suddenly here he sits, first in the standings. That quick one-two punch may have knocked the breath out of the Chase,

If the Chase were a heavyweight fight the rest of the dazed field would require smelling salts and a good cut man.

So much for Jimmie’s deep, dark hole. It took him a grand total two races to climb from seventh to first.

And now he’s headed to California, one of his golden tracks. If he continues to pour it on this weekend, he may exit his home state with a choke-hold on the championship.

I know: there’s a lot of racing left and anything can happen. Except in Jimmie’s case, not much ever does. Happen, I mean. Even when he stumbles he jumps right back up and hits the ground running faster than ever.

Not only is Johnson and his team the steadiest and most consistent on the track (and has been for five years now) they are aided and abetted by mediocre performances by the rest of the field.

Not a single driver has been able to mount a consistent challenge. One will perform well for a race or two and then he fizzles. Someone else will look strong for a short stretch, then he too falls on his face.

Think about it: In the past four seasons, how many drivers have been able to mount a consistent, serious challenge to Johnson? A few have shown sparks and spurts, but nothing consistently threatening.

Johnson’s amazing five-year run can be attributed to two factors: How well he’s performed and how weak everybody else has been.

For Jimmie that’s been a winning combination for the past four years. Unless someone gets it in gear – and fast – it’s going to be a winning combo again this season.

Johnson is on the verge of getting away, and all that NASCAR’s finest seems able to do is shrug and wave goodbye.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 9 2010
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