Spicing up the last Chase races
If Jimmie Johnson finished 43rd and Carl Edwards wins, JJ would lead by 25 points
With the risks he'll take, Edwards may end up with a catastrophic accident instead
Eight years ago this weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first race
Jimmie Johnson has sapped the Chase of nearly all its suspense. His performance over the last seven races -- combined with some timely slips from his rivals -- has given him a virtual stranglehold on his third straight Cup title. Not since Titanic have we sat watching something for which the conclusion was so certain. The ship, of course, went down. Johnson, I'm reasonably certain, won't.
Johnson could finish 43rd at Texas this weekend and Carl Edwards could win, and Johnson would remain in front by roughly 25 points. While that would make things very interesting over the final two races, it would be hard to imagine Edwards seizing control of the lead. In the Chase, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus make very few catastrophic mistakes. If he commits one this year, it doesn't seem likely that he would commit another.
And I think it's very possible that Johnson could increase his lead on Sunday at Texas. He won there for the first time last October, when it really counted, after all. He and Knaus may play it a little safer, but that's okay. The two must only coax the No. 48 Chevy to an average finish of ninth for the rest of the season to retain the championship.
So I think what we're likely to see is Johnson running strong and Edwards going for it with everything he's got. It's his only chance. Cousin Carl could easily win this thing, but considering the risks he's going to be taking, the possibility is there for a catastrophic mishap.
So settle in, folks. We may have seen this show before, but the ending could be interesting.
Please, Jimmie, let it be interesting.
HOW TO DRIVE
Texas Motor Speedway
Kasey Kahne discusses how Texas is different from other 1.5-mile ovals: "Getting into Turn 1 can be tricky. It's real flat and then, as you're coming into the corner, you get into the banking. It's almost like you fall into the corner at 190 miles per hour. Turn 3 is similar but it's not as drastic. It's a difficult place to get your car to handle the way you want. It's a great track, but you really need your car to handle well on entry to be competitive."
183: Number of points that separate Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in the Cup standings
3: Number of times in the last three years that the winner of the Atlanta race has followed up his victory with a win at Texas (Edwards, who won at Atlanta last week, turned the trick in 2005.)
9: Average finish over the final three races that Johnson needs to secure his third straight Sprint Cup championship
April 2, 2000: Making just his 12th Cup start, rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads a race-high 106 laps en route to his first career victory in the DirecTV 500 at Texas. His father, Dale Earnhardt, finishes seventh.