Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Five Down, Five to Go: Charlotte Musings

Is there anyone who can honestly say they’re unhappy whenever Jeff Burton wins a race? Easily one of the most respected drivers in the Sprint Cup garage area, Burton took the checkered flag Saturday night in the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The win, coupled with troubles for Carl Edwards (more on him in a bit), vaulted Burton to second in the standings, 69 points behind Jimmie Johnson.

Can Burton now be considered a serious title threat, much like Greg Biffle was after winning back-to-back races to start the Chase? It’s possible; Burton runs well at Martinsville (the stop this week), as well as upcoming 1.5-milers Texas and Atlanta. Burton’s only problem is Johnson himself, who not only has the same consistency, but this is the two-time champion’s time of year.

Johnson always seems to run well once the series leaves Richmond in September. He’s quickly turning into NASCAR’s version of Reggie Jackson. The Yankee legend is known as Mr. October; we might have to start calling Johnson Mr. Chase.

But should Johnson stumble in the final five races, Burton seems best positioned to take advantage given the remaining schedule. Biffle and Edwards will be strong on the 1.5-mile tracks, as well as Phoenix, but both Roush-Fenway drivers are average at best on the Virginia short track in Martinsville. Barring a career performance from either this weekend, the trophy will come down to Johnson and Burton.

If that’s the case, the analyst in me says Johnson – for obvious reasons. But the face says Burton. I mentioned earlier how Burton is so respected. For many fans, Burton is their second favorite driver; i.e., “If my favorite driver can’t win, I’d really like to see Jeff Burton win.”

Fair? Perhaps not, but it beats having ¾ of the crowd booing you every week. Right, Kyle Busch?

From Bad to Worse

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Carl Edwards last week, the Bank of America 500 happened. Ignition problems doomed Edwards to a 33rd-place finish and a tumble from second to fourth in the standings, 168 points behind Jimmie Johnson.

Edwards’ bad week actually started at Talladega, when a bump draft of teammate Greg Biffle triggered a 12-car pileup that ate up six Chase contenders. Then Kevin Harvick voiced his displeasure pointedly on ESPN’s live broadcast, calling Edwards a “pansy.”

Edwards and Harvick then reportedly had words in the Nationwide Series garage on Friday, which resulted in Edwards’ hand around Harvick’s neck and Harvick shoving Edwards so hard that Edwards’ backside left a dent in the hood of Harvick’s No. 33 Nationwide car.

I swear, there’s a joke in there somewhere.

Call it karma if you wish – some believe Edwards was the guilty party in the brawl, even though there’s little visual evidence – but if Edwards loses the championship this year, he can probably point to the seven days between Talladega and Charlotte to find the culprit. Edwards is a fine talent and the sort of personality that NASCAR needs, but he apparently needs to learn how to lose a title before he can win one.

Make no mistake, though; he will win one. At least.

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