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NASCAR Notes: Anti-Incumbent Feelings Spread

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 5 2010

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus not a popular choice to repeat. Again. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – The tightest points battle between a trio of drivers with three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship rolls into Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Four-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and challenger Kevin Harvick had a light-hearted exchange following Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

“No offense to (Johnson), but somebody else needs to win (the championship),” said Harvick, who joins Denny Hamlin as the only drivers with a realistic chance to dethrone Johnson.

“Says who?” responded Johnson.

“Everybody but (the 48 team) wants somebody else to win,” Harvick fired back. “I like Jimmie as good as anybody. But for the sake of the sport, one of the two of us needs to make something happen.

“I can promise you that.”

Jeff Burton sided with Harvick, his Richard Childress Racing teammate when asked about the subject on Friday.

“I think most people want to see a different champion and I think that’s just based on the fact that no one driver has all the fans,” Burton said. “If Jimmie has 20 percent of the fans, that’s an incredible stat considering all the other drivers.

“But that means there’s 80 percent that don’t want to see him win. With the exception of maybe Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), I think the majority of the fans want to see anybody else win because it’s not their guy. I think that’s really what it boils down to.”

Matt Kenseth, who has no ties to any of the championship contenders, took a more diplomatic approach.

“I just hope the best car each year wins it,” the 2003 Cup champion said. “If the best team wins it, then I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

“I think the fastest car is supposed to win the race and the best team and car is supposed to win the championship.”

Helpless situation: It’s common to see drivers work with rival teams or manufacturers in the draft at Talladega.

But with the season’s final three races set to be played out on tracks where drafting isn’t a factor, don’t look expect many drivers to go out of there way to offer a helping hand to the competitors racing for the title.

“They aren’t getting any help from me,” Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle said. “The 16 is out there to win and I am going to show all of them respect just the same as I would expect them to show me in these final races.

“I am going to race them all fairly and let it be decided amongst themselves.”

Busch Feeling Blue: Kurt Busch’s reign in Roger Penske’s famous No. 2 car comes to an end in two weeks following the season finale in Homestead, Fla.

The 2004 Cup champion will pilot Penske’s No. 22 Dodge beginning in 2011.

“It’s bitter sweet,” Busch said of the switch. “It’s tough to jump out of the car and think that these are my last few races.

“To know the opportunity with Shell/Pennzoil and jumping over to the 22 car next year, race fans have been really supportive. I even saw a guy at Sam Hornish’s bowling tournament (Thursday) night with a homemade Pennzoil hat on getting ready for next year.

“But we still have some things to accomplish with the Blue Deuce, and that’s to go out as best as we can with this Chase and the possibility of winning in these last three weeks.”

The new guy: Trevor Bayne, a 19-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., is considered one of the top young talents in the sport.

He’ll make his Cup debut this weekend driving the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers.

“I notice when I went over to sign in this morning, it looked like (Bayne) might have been the first driver to sign in,” Carl Edwards said. “So you can tell he’s ready to go.

“I think he’s a great guy. I’m really glad he came over here. I think he’ll help our team. I think that he’s good enough that he could be part of the future of Roush Fenway Racing.

“Hopefully, he has success like he should. And I think running this Cup car will help him. I think the more he can run the Cup car, the better off he’ll be in the Nationwide car. I think it will raise his game.”

Anybody seen my lobster?: Clint Bowyer takes great pride in the trophies he receives for winning races. He said they’ll be around long after the race winnings are spent.

So where are the trophies for winning Cup races at Talladega and New Hampshire this season?

“This is kind of bad, but the Talladega trophy is on the floor on my motorhome,” Bowyer said with a chuckle. “It was on the table but I had to move it so I could eat last night. So it hasn’t made it home yet.

“We lost that lobster they gave us at New Hampshire. I guess they mount a lobster somehow.

“So I’m waiting on that to get back. I’m curious to see what that lobster is going to look like. It’ll be a different trophy for the trophy room for sure.”

Sadler hired: Kevin Harvick Inc. announced Friday it will put veteran Cup driver Elliott Sadler in a Nationwide Series car owned by KHI next season.

The 35 year old made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in 1995 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway accumulating 130 starts, five wins, 19 top-five and 38 top-10 finishes. Sadler will compete full time in the Nationwide Series in 2011 and vie for his first series title. During 2010, Sadler will compete in one Nationwide and eightTruck Series races for KHI. He won his first Truck race of his career in KHI equipment at Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway in July. Sadler also qualified on the pole and finished third while representing KHI at Bristol in the August Nationwide Series race.

“Kevin and DeLana and everyone at KHI have really rejuvenated my career,” Sadler said. “I’ve been in some very fortunate situations throughout my career and I feel like running the races for KHI this year is a perfect example. It opened a lot of doors for me and obviously helped get us to this point. We’re committing to race for the Nationwide Championship in 2011. That’s a very achievable goal and one that I’m very hungry for.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 5 2010
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