You gotta give Carl Edwards credit for trying. He finished third at Martinsville, a track he's not that good on, and then won Atlanta and Texas. Edwards even finished fourth at Phoenix on Sunday, putting together a four-race stretch after a disastrous Talladega and Charlotte that would give anyone a boost in the points.
Unless that person was chasing Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson won both Martinsville and Phoenix in dominating fashion, and even rained on Edwards' parade with a late charge to finish second in Atlanta. Not even a 15th-place egg at Texas could bring Edwards within 100 points of the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. And unless something completely unforeseen happens Sunday at Homestead, Johnson will become the first driver since Cale Yarborough to win three consecutive Cup titles.
Johnson could easily be working on his fifth straight championship; he's never finished lower than fifth in the season standings in his Sprint Cup career.
If Johnson finishes 36th or better in the Ford 400, he'll clinch the title regardless of what Edwards, 141 points back, does. If Johnson leads a lap, he needs a 38th-place finish; if he leads the most laps, the benchmark becomes 39th. Johnson finished 39th in the Coca-Cola 600 in May thanks to a blown motor, so it is possible.
Just not likely. Like it or not, we can start engraving the trophy now.
Jamie McMurray will be getting a new crew chief in 2009, but the way he's been running in recent weeks, one might wonder why. McMurray has four Top-10 finishes in the last five races, including three Top-5s. He finished fifth in Charlotte, along with back-to-back third-place efforts in Texas and Phoenix.
He also finished seventh in Atlanta, and McMurray had strong runs at Talladega and Dover derailed by any number of issues.
So ... why is owner Jack Roush getting rid of Larry Carter again? I'll grant that McMurray sits 16th in the point standings and hasn't won a race since July 2007, but is it really that smart to make a change just when things seem to be coming together?
I'll grant Roush normally makes these sorts of moves with a measure of success, but it's no coincidence that Edwards struggled in 2006 when Roush took away crew chief Bob Osbourne. Only once Osbourne returned did Edwards return to his winning and championship-contending ways.
If I'm Roush, I'm not letting Carter go anywhere.