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Race Day: Is Five Too Many For Jimmie?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 7 2010

Texas Motor Speedway will host today's Texas 500, the eighth race of the 10-race Chase. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Last week, Kevin Harvick said that it would be better for NASCAR if Jimmie Johnson did not win a fifth straight championship this year.

Harvick – who will be third in points behind Johnson when today’s Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway starts – repeated that contention again on Friday.

“I think people get tired of seeing the same guy winning; and I think in the end, it would just bring new attention to the spot because it wouldn’t be the same old thing as Johnson won again,” Harvick said. “So, I wasn’t joking.”

A couple of other drivers weighed in on the subject at Texas this weekend. Here is what a select group had to say about Johnson winning five straight being good/bad for the sport:

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet: “I just laugh at everybody about it. The whole idea here is to go out and win races and win championships and the guy has been good at it for four years. So, I don’t know how you can say they guy doing what he’s supposed to do, and doing what all of us want to do, how you can say it’s bad. That’s where I stand on that.”

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: Other drivers said that, “Probably because everybody would like to beat him. If I don’t win it, then yeah you have friends and stuff you would like to see win it, but I just hope the best car each year wins it. 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.”

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “I don’t necessarily feel that way. Everybody looks at it as Jimmie has won four in a row and they maybe are ready for something new. In my eyes, the best team should win. Right now, there are three of them that are neck-in-neck in how they are performing and it is going to be close when it comes down to it. We will just have to wait and see.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “If the roles were reversed, I would be saying the same thing.  As a competitor, you’re tired of the same guy winning.  I guess I understand where they’re coming from and what they’re saying – I don’t necessarily agree with it.  I think it would be great for someone to win five straight.  It’s just a little humor on each side there.  He (Harvick) and his fan base and the 11 (Denny Hamlin, second in points) and their fan base – they want to see their guys win and they want to see a change at the top.  I know myself and my fan base, we like how things have been and hope to keep it up.”

Fast facts

What: Texas 500

When: Sunday, 3:15 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN, 2 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Race distance: 334 laps/501 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

Frontstretch: 2,250 feet

Backstretch: 1,330 feet

Banking in straightaways: 5 degrees

Banking in turns: 24 degrees

2009 winner: Kurt Busch

2009 polesitter: Jeff Gordon

Today’s polesitter: Elliott Sadler

Grumpy Happy

When you go into and interview with Kevin Harvick, you never know what you are going to get. Sometimes he is charming. Sometimes, not so much. Friday at Texas: Not so much.

He was asked:

Are you not in a good mood or are you just wearing your game face?

Harvick – “I guess that’s for you to figure out.”

How important is qualifying at Texas?

Harvick – “Friday’s haven’t meant squat to us.”

Thank you and good night everybody.

Trivia time

Who was the first driver to win a Sprint Cup pole at Texas Motor Speedway?

The knee joint

Denny Hamlin won the TMS race in the spring. He was recuperating from the knee injury he suffered while playing basketball.

He was asked about that victory and that injury this weekend.

“That was a turning point I felt in my season, was coming here and winning against all odds pretty much,” Hamlin said. “A race track we never won at, just coming and having the knee issue.  It just seemed like there was a momentum boost for our team, as soon as we won Texas the wins kept rolling.  We don’t know why, we don’t to this day know why we went on a roll like we did there in the summer.  All you can kind of point to is the momentum that this race gave for us.”

Track tidbits

Races: 19

Most wins: 3, by Carl Edwards

Most poles: 2, four drivers have done it

Most top-fives: 7, by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth

Most top-10s: 11, by Mark Martin

Most laps led: 581, by Jeff Gordon

Most DNFs: 7, by Joe Nemechek

Fewest DNFs, 0, by Kevin Harvick

Youngest pole winner: Brian Vickers (23 years, 12 days)

Oldest pole winner: Bill Elliott (46 years, 6 months)

Youngest race winner: Ryan Newman (25 years, 3 months, 22 days)

Oldest race winner: Dale Jarrett (44 years, 4 months, 6 days)

Last race won from the pole: 2006, by Kasey Kahne

Smallest margin of victory: .028 seconds

Largest margin of victory: 25.686 seconds

No help wanted

Jeff Burton was asked about championship contenders getting help from teammates in today’s race.

“I think if you start letting people win, I think that’s the extreme integrity issue,” he said. “I think that for years people have let people lead laps and those kinds of things and those things will happen when possible.  I hope we don’t get to the point where people let people win races.  I really hope we don’t get there.  I have a major problem with that.

“Let me tell you something, if I was second in points and I had a teammate win the race and had I won the race, I would have won the championship, honestly I wouldn’t’ want to win the championship in that regard.  No matter what you think, you’re always going to know that you probably shouldn’t have won the championship.  I just think there’s a huge, huge integrity issue with that kind of thing.”

Trivia answer

The pole for the first Texas race – which was held in 1997 – was awarded based on points because rain killed qualifying. The next year, Jeremy Mayfield became the first driver to win a pole for a Texas Cup race.

Great stop

Some call racing at Texas special. One of those is Jeff Burton, the winner of the first race to be held at the place.

“There’s a lot of energy to this race – the fans really come out and support this race a great deal,” Burton said. “From day one this has been a highly attended race. I think the drivers appreciate that and understand that it’s a special thing.  Every driver is different – some drivers like some race tracks and some drivers don’t like that same race track.

“It really depends on the individual and it depends on the situation they’re in.  This is a really odd time of year.  There’s people that just can’t wait to get it over, there’s people that don’t want it to end, there’s everything in between – this is a really interesting time of year.  I think all in all this is an enjoyable race track.”

Up next

The Arizona 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Jimmie Johnson won last year’s race after qualifying third. Martin Truex Jr. was the polewinner.

Johnson has won four times at PIR, most among all drivers.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 7 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Liz says:

    Shame on Tony Stewart for being so politically correct. This is so unlike him.
    ANY sport suffers when the same guy keeps winning – especially NASCAR, when all teams compete in one single event rather than teams being paired off each week.
    NASCAR continues to ignore the 600 pound gorilla in the room: Fans are losing interest. The economy may impact ticket sales, but the economy doesn’t make people change channels. So – why are TV ratings down? Explain that one.