By: Drew Hierwarter
Just a couple of short weeks ago lots of people were talking about the powerhouse team of Joe Gibbs Racing and saying that they were the team to beat for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup “Chase for the Championship”. Now, just three races into the 10 race “Chase”, the JGR teams are holding down the bottom three spots in the standings and, even though it’s still mathematically possible, realistically they have no chance. And it’s all due to simple bad luck.
Tony Stewart had a damaged splitter that required five laps in the pits to repair. And, for the second race in a row, Kyle Busch had engine trouble. Denny Hamlin finished eleventh and on the lead lap but was never a factor to win. At one point during the race the only “Chase” drivers not in the top ten were the Joe Gibbs Three.
At the top of the “Chase” pyramid, the 48 team of Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus are once again peaking at exactly the right time in the season. Johnson won the race in Kansas Sunday, assumed the point lead and must, once again, be considered a serious threat to win his third consecutive championship.
The race itself was, for the most part, fairly uneventful. That is until the last lap banzi move by Carl Edwards to attempt to pass leader Johnson. Going into turn three, Edwards dove hard to the bottom and shot past the 48. Johnson saw the slide job coming, gave Edwards some room and watched as the 99 slid all the way up to and in to the wall. Edwards hit harder than he had planned and lost too much momentum to catch the fleeing Johnson.
Next week the circuit moves to Talladega and what most experts consider to be the “wild card” race in the “Chase” as literally anything can happen there. Point leader Johnson could be caught up in a wreck he had nothing to do with, and Kyle Busch and his team could easily find their early season form once again. Or somebody we’re not even thinking about, like Michael Waltrip, could come from nowhere and win the thing. You just never know.
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Last week’s final round loss in Dallas may have interrupted Tony Schumacher’s record consecutive win streak in NHRA Top Fuel competition, but it didn’t interrupt his determination or drive. The team came right back this weekend in Memphis and picked up where they left off, winning round after round and getting the win in his ninth straight final round appearance. Schumacher has now lost only one round of competition since the series went to the 1,000 foot distance back in June. His point lead over second place Cory McClenathan is now 166 with only three races remaining in the season.
And in the Funny Cars, point leader Tim Wilkerson was the guy who ruined the day for John Force Racing. Wilkerson faced and defeated John Force, Robert Hight, and Ashley Force in consecutive rounds on his way to his second win in a row and sixth of the year.
In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards got the win at the expense of Jason Line and that win moved Edwards from ninth to fifth in the point standings. Jeg Coughlin maintains a slim 14 point lead over second place Kurt Johnson in spite of his second round loss to Alan Johnson.