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Race Day: Welcome To CMS, AKA, Jimmieland

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 16 2010

The lights go on at Charlotte Motor Speedway tonight for the Bank of America 500, the fifth race of the 10-race Chase. Jeff Gordon is on the pole. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – Yes, the Chase hits the halfway point today and, yes, Jimmie Johnson is leading the points and, yes, today’s race is at the track formerly known as Jimmieland, Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But no, other members of the Chase said this weekend, Johnson has not won this year’s championship. Not yet, not even close.

Certainly not mathematically and not even psychologically.

Some even got a little bit indignant when asked questions about Johnson’s invincibility and their own possible demises.

Here is what they said:

Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “Hell yes we’re still in it.  I go out here and race as hard as I can and if we’ve got a mathematical chance of being in it, then we do have a chance.  We don’t quit.  That’s not what we do.  I talked to my crew.  I talked to PK (Pierre Kuettel) in the window of the car when he was putting up my window net a minute ago and his words were, ‘We don’t quit until Homestead is over.’   And that’s the way we do it.  Now, that doesn’t make it any easier or anything, I just think that’s the way you have to approach it.  If I gave up with six races to go, I think that would be pretty foolish.”

Kurt Busch, No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge:  “No, not at all.  Anything can happen at any given moment.  Whether it’s an engine failure, another competitor running into someone on the track, points can swap so fast that anything can happen and it’s anyone’s game.  There’s no reason to panic.  There’s no reason to do anything out of the ordinary.  If you’re running around fifth or sixth in points and you win, you can’t expect to vault into second-place

pointss

anymore, you have to work your way around those guys.  But if the leader has problems then it opens the door for everybody.”

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: “We haven’t run the white flag up just yet. This is an interesting sport. As I said, we are certainly not a position that we want to be in, we’re certainly not is a position that I thought we would be in, but we’re in the position that we are in. Certainly the odds are against us but our focus is on still trying to go out and perform so we can win the championship. We have to have some help to do that. If those top-three or four guys go finish top-five, even top-10s the rest of the year, it is probably not going to work out for us. There are a lot of events that are going to happen between now and then.”

Fast facts

What: Bank of America 500

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET

TV: ABC, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Race distance: 334 laps/501 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Banking: 24 degrees in the corners

2009 winner: Jimmie Johnson

2009 polesitter: Jimmie Johnson

Tonight’s polesitter: Jeff Gordon

Three to go

If Kurt Busch can win tonight, it will give him three victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one year as he won the Coke 600 there in May and also the All-Star race.

Cool, he said.

“We have a very unique opportunity,” Busch said. “There have only been seven guys to have the opportunity to sweep all three Cup races in the same season here at Charlotte.  I feel excited about it.  We’re definitely pumped up about it inside the team with the challenge that’s out in front of us during these 10 weeks of the Chase.  To bring home a win here at Charlotte on Saturday night would boost us up in the points and get us back on track to where we need to be.  It’s a win-win for us.  We like the extra pressure.  It’s a chance to do something special and hopefully we can deliver with the Miller Lite Dodge.”

Trivia time

Jimmie Johnson swept the two Charlotte points races in 2004 and 2005. Another driver swept both races in 2006. Who did that sweep in 2006?

Track tidbits

Most victories: 6, by Jimmie Johnson, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison

Most poles: 14, by David Pearson

Most top-fives: 23, by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty

Most top-10s: 31, by Richard Petty

Most lead changes: 54, in 1979

Most leaders: 21, in 2005

Most cautions: 22, 2005

Fewest cautions: 1, in 1962

Most on lead lap: 26, in 2009

Fewest on lead lap: 1, 13 times, most recently in 1987

Closest margin of victory: .027 seconds, in 2005

Greatest margin of victory: 11.982 seconds in 1996

Fired up

The paint scheme on the Wood Brother Racing Ford of Bill Elliott will feature blue flames today.

Eddie Wood, co-owner of the team was asked about the flames.

“There were a lot of flames, but flames go all the way back to the George Barris days.  I don’t know who started it, but you can look at some of those old, old movies with nice-looking hot rods and they all had flames.  I can remember model cars I had when I was a kid and the decal pack always had a version with flames, so flames are cool.”

Rating the ratings

Television ratings are a real concern for NASCAR. They seem to go down every week.

Driver Jeff Gordon was asked why that is this weekend. He said:

“My only argument is rivalries.  I think there needs to be some more rivalries out there.  When I won my first championship, obviously the rivalry with Earnhardt and even in the other championships I never really had the rivals like that, but there was always Ford versus or Chevy, or with Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett, or Bobby Labonte—some things like that.  I just think it’s important to have rivalries.  I don’t think it’s anything about Jimmie Johnson, it’s just nobody has really rivaled him.  The only one that has besides Carl (Edwards) I guess, I would have thought that that would have been pretty decent ratings that year, but Carl is probably just too nice.

“It’s two nice guys going against each other, even though its Ford vs. Chevy; I think there is a certain entertainment aspect to it that plays out and that just depends on the guys’ personality and their fan base.  Right now if it was Kyle Busch versus Jimmie Johnson, I think it’d spark a lot more interest.  I think that (Kevin) Harvick kind of plays that role a little bit and he’s there.  If that battle heats up, I think it could be interesting.  I think right now anything that sparks a good battle with Jimmie, even if it’s me I think will spark some things.  Those guys have dominated so much that when we get to this position I think a lot of people just go, ‘oh man, he’s going to do it again.’ But, I also think they’re waiting to see if somebody else can beat him.”

Trivia answer

Kasey Kahne won the two points races at Charlotte in 2006.

Up next

The Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville. Denny Hamlin won the race a year ago and Ryan Newman won the pole. Hamlin also won the spring race there earlier this year when he beat Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano by a half second.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 16 2010
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