Monday, November 8, 2010

NASCAR: Denny Hamlin leads chase over Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick heading into Phoenix; Nationwide and Truck Owner’s Championship still on the line as well with 2 to go.

As the 2010 NASCAR racing season is coming down to the end, at this point, we are normally talking about at least one NASCAR championship in one of the three national series that will come down to the final race. However this year we are in fact only really talking about one championship and that would be the chase for the Sprint up in the Cup Series. But did you know that in fact there are three championships still yet to be determined in NASCAR?

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is on with 3 drivers in the hunt

Heading into this past weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson held a slim 14 point lead over 2nd place Denny Hamlin and a 38 point lead over 3rd place Kevin Harvick.

However with just 3 races to go heading into Texas, the fact is that a good top 10 finish just simply isn’t going to be enough if the other points contenders finish in the top 3 or win the race. And that’s exactly what happened at Texas.

All three chase contenders each had their high points and low points during the race on Sunday, but it was Denny Hamlin that emerged victorious at Texas winning the AAA Texas 500. While his two rival championship contenders both found themselves finishing outside the top 5.

Kevin Harvick would run pretty good for most of the day, but it would be a late race caution that would save Harvick and the #29 team from disaster when the #29 crew got there boy out in front of the cars that pitted after a two tire stop and on the inside line for the final restart. Kevin Harvick would end up marching his way up through the field to finish in the 6th place. Harvick would gain and loss all at the same time in the points as Harvick now finds himself 59 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.

Jimmie Johnson on the other hand would get hurt most of the day as a combination of bad pits stops during most of the race and an ill handing car would make Johnson fight for each position. However as NASCAR fans have come to almost expect, Johnson would rebound enough to go towards the top 5 after the #24 pitted his car.

But on the final restart with no new tires and starting on the outside line behind Greg Biffle, Johnson would fall back as Biffle who had no 2nd gear and stalled in front of Johnson. And Johnson would fail to rebound no better than a 9th place finish.

For the first time in years, Johnson now finds himself 2nd in points, -33 points behind Denny Hamlin with two races to go. But the prediction here is different as I believe that Johnson will go out, lead the most laps and win next week at Phoenix, closing the points gap and making this a race for the championship go into Homestead (which I will address next week).

Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship

Last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski, who had a huge points lead over Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series Drivers championship clinched his first NASCAR drivers championship with a 3rd place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Congrats to Brad Keselowski, hell of a job.

However in the Nationwide Series, there is a second championship still up for grabs with 2 races to go and that would be the Owner’s Championship. Yes race fans, Penske Racing hasn’t won the championship yet and #18- Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota normally driven by Kyle Busch still holds the lead with an 81 point lead over Penske Racing with the #22 Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski.

I’m not surprised that this Owners’ championship has ended up like this and JGR can thank Kyle Busch for this one and in one part to Kyle Busch putting Brad Keselowski into the wall at the summer Bristol Nationwide Series race. So if the points stay the same it could be Brad Keselowski winning the drivers championship and JGR as the Owner’s Championship and I have a feeling that’s exactly how it’s going to happen.

Truck Series Owner’s Championship

With 2 races to go in the Truck Series season, the drivers championship is just about over considering the points leader Todd Bodine has a 230 point lead over second place Aric Almirola, the main focus now turns to the Owner’s Championship that ironically looks a lot like the Nationwide’s Series Owner’s Championship with #18-Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota having a 72 point lead over second place #30-Germain Racing Toyota.

In a lot of the same ways as the Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship, I would say borrowing a bad finish, the standings with stay the same with Todd Bodine as the drivers champion and Kyle Busch Motorsports winning the Owner’s championship.

I do have to say one thing in that I think it sucks that when a full-time driver with the same team all season long wins the drivers championship only, that is terrible, but that’s racing and as of now that’s NASCAR’s way of thinking.