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Minter: The Choice For Chase Favorite Is An Easy One

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 11 2010

Jimmie Johnson is on track for another monster finish. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

A few observations as the Sprint Cup circuit head back to NASCAR’s traditional stomping grounds…

Picking a favorite in the Chase has become as easy as “1,2,3.”

That’s Jimmie Johnson’s respective finishes in the past three races, once he got his bad race – a 25th at New Hampshire – behind him. And now the circuit is headed to two race tracks where he has six career wins apiece.

Although he’s faltered some at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he did win last fall’s Chase race there, and at Martinsville, he’s never finished worse than ninth since his initial start on the paper-clip-shaped half-mile track.

And another thing to ponder – Johnson left California a little disappointed that a late-race caution kept him from winning at another track where he hardly ever gets beat and extending his points lead even more.

“I think if it had stayed green at the end, we had a shot to get the No. 14 (Tony Stewart),” he said. “But it didn’t turn out that way. There was a caution at the end with that wreck. Starting on the inside was kind of a problem for me. I just didn’t get going like I needed to.”

The real victim

If Denny Hamlin was right about Clint Bowyer’s car being illegal long before he was caught at New Hampshire, then Ryan Newman’s the real loser in the deal.

It was Newman who was beaten out by Clint Bowyer for the final spot in the 12-driver Chase. And Newman has been running like a championship contender even though he can finish no better than 13th in the standings under the Chase formula.

If Newman had made the Chase, he’d now be fourth in the standings, just 84 points out of the lead.

“We’ve been pretty solid these last few races, but unfortunately, we’re not a part of the Chase,” Newman said in his post-race comments. “But we’re still out there fighting for a win every week. I’m just really proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished.”

Wrong choice

It looks like Kyle Busch picked a bad year to not run for the Nationwide Series title. His intention was to focus on his Sprint Cup car and the Chase, but a run-in with David Reutimann and a blown engine at California knocked the wind out of that sail.

And in the Nationwide Series, he’s still third in the standings, 485 behind leader Brad Keselowski, despite missing five races.

His numbers make Carl Edwards look bad too. Edwards is in second place and after having run all 30 races to date is just 101 points ahead of Busch, who leads the series in wins with 12.

The Nationwide standings also offer further insight into the situation in that series. For instance, Jason Leffler remains in the top 10 in points despite an astonishing nine DNFs.

And two Cup drivers, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, are in the top seven in points despite limited appearances. Harvick is sixth in the standings and has missed six races. Logano is seventh and has missed nine.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 11 2010
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