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Woody: Crabgrass Ruining Chase

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 15 2010

Jimmie Johnson is on the verge of spoiling another Chase. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Jimmie Johnson has become the crabgrass of NASCAR. Once he moves in there’s no getting rid of him.

Oh, once in awhile he may shrivel a bit, but he quickly sprouts right back up, as fresh and entrenched as ever.

While Tony Stewart stole the headlines by winning last Sunday’s race at California, Johnson quietly cruised home third and padded his points lead.

In the last three races he has finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and with six to go I think he’s gone. They might as well put the champagne on ice and start engraving the trophy.

As we said last week, there’s no secret to Jimmie’s success: his amazing consistency combined with everybody else’s amazing inconsistency.

While other driver’s performance charts zig up and down like a pacemaker at a hoochie-koochie show, Jimmie’s is steady and even-keel. There may be an occasional dip, like his 25th-place finish in the Chase opener that plunged him to 7th in the standings. But he bounced right back the next week with a win, followed by a second and last Sunday’s third.

Smooth and steady. That’s Johnson.

Meanwhile behind him the rest of the pack keeps tripping over its shoelaces.

It’s starting to look like they saved their worst for last.

The field of legit contenders is being pared down each week – scratch off Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer. And after Saturday night’s Charlotte race anyone who’s not in the Top 5 will be racing for leftovers. It’s hard to imagine anyone rallying from further back, especially considering who’s out front.

If it were any driver except Johnson I’d be wary of making too strong a prediction with six races to go because racing is the most unpredictable of all sports. A driver’s fate is often out of his own control and pure luck (good and bad) is frequently a factor in the outcome.

But Johnson continues to defy the odds. No driver in history has enjoyed the kind of five-year streak he’s currently riding, and he shows no signs of slippage.

We can debate whether it’s good for the sport for a make-no-waves nice guy like Johnson to continue to dominate, but what is not debatable is that he’s the best on the track and has been for several years.

Johnson is so good and wins so much that he makes it look easy, and that has created some fan resentment, unfairly I think. Critics claim he’s robotic; I say he’s human – just an extraordinarily talented human.

There’s no question that Johnson has the best team in racing backing him, but so did Richard Petty during most of his golden years and nobody resented Richard for it.

Two weeks ago Jimmie snared the points lead and last Sunday he extended it (36 points over Denny Hamlin) and now the championship is his to lose. Barring a turnover he’s gone, and he and his team don’t have a history of fumbling.

Listen closely and you can hear champagne glasses tinkling in the background.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 15 2010
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