[cb_profit_poster Travel1]Clinton, S.C., Monday, September 30, 2013, 9:05 a.m.
The NASCAR season has fallen into a pattern. Matt Kenseth won the first two races in the Chase. Jimmie Johnson won at Dover. Next he’ll win in Kansas. Then maybe races five and six will go to Kyle Busch.
Kenseth, Johnson and Busch will likely duel it out to the end. Yes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came close on Sunday, but he’s probably too far behind to contend for the title. Maybe he’ll win one down the stretch, and that will serve the yearly function of getting his fans excited about the season that comes next.
Wait till next year! Remember the Alamo! Roll, Tide!
The Chase was unpredictable right up until the time it started. Teams know all about trying to manipulate the format. Then most of them get there and don’t know what to do. Each week a couple fall by the wayside. Each week a few get behind, play their strategy right, take advantage of social welfare, and wander into the top 10 by race’s end.
The top 10 Dover finishers were all in the Chase, breaking the previous record of nine. Of course, by the miracle of seat-of-the-pants rule-making, the Chase has 13 drivers in Year the 13th. Ten out of 13 beats nine out of 12 by .19 in percentage (.769 to .750). This Chase is a half-game ahead in the win column. In this sport, though, it’s too late for a wild card. They’ve already been dealt.
That having been noted, this championship mix really works better with the variables whittled down. Imagine if the Chase came down to the Homestead, Fla., finale with a wide-open race. What if seven drivers had a shot at the championship?
You think you saw manipulation at Richmond? If determining the championship required constant use of calculators at Homestead, NASCAR would have to put Pinkerton agents in the pit box and on the spotters’ stands.
All things considered, the best Chase would be what happened before there was one in 1992. At the end, it came down to Alan Kulwicki leading one more lap than Bill Elliott, but that championship race also included Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. That one race was better than any Chase, but the two-way race in 2011 between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards was also unbelievable.
Three-way might be better than two-way, but after that, it gets too complicated.
What? Somebody threw a cantaloupe out the window? Ah, hell, put it out!
If you listen closely – or, in my case, read the next morning — it’s almost impossible not to find some amusing tidbit from Kyle Busch’s comments.
I picked him to win the championship before the season started. If he wins it, maybe he’ll reach the level of celebrity that could get him lampooned on “Saturday Night Live.”
Here’s what made me chuckle from Dover:
“The inside lane just doesn’t get going here. I think it’s because you’re lower in the bowl than the outside lane is, and you’re coming up out of it, and you’re just having to come uphill, and, obviously, the more uphill you have to go that’s — it’s harder whether you’re a human being or mechanical horsepower.”
Mr. Human, meet Mr. Horsepower. Horsepower, human. Human, horsepower.
This must be National Cliché Day. If cheeseburgers can have a day, clichés ought to have one.
Mechanical Horsepower. Wasn’t he in the Cars movies?
Johnson’s eighth Dover victory made him the concrete mile’s all-time leader, breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever done what Richard Petty hasn’t,” Johnson said.
Actually, Petty never won five straight championships, though he did win seven overall (along with Dale Earnhardt).
In terms of other sports, Johnson is shy of the Boston Celtics (eight straight 1959-66) and the UCLA Bruins (college basketball, seven straight 1967-73).
The Montreal Canadiens won five straight hockey titles in 1956-60.
Johnson, of course, would have to start all over, and he couldn’t possibly win five more in a row. Could he?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said it wasn’t any tougher to finish second to Johnson than anyone else.
“I’ll be honest with you,” he said, and it’s always nice when drivers don’t lie. “It sucks to lose, regardless of who wins. It’s probably harder to run second than it is fifth or 10th. When you have a car like we had today, you don’t get good cars every week, [and] you like to capitalize.
“It doesn’t bother me that it was Jimmie. I know Jimmie is going to be good here. Plus he’s my teammate. I want to see him do well. When he does well, it indirectly affects us and benefits us. I wasn’t hoping he was going to blow a tire or anything there at the end; I was just trying to catch him. If I could get to him, I thought I would be able to get by him. We just couldn’t do it.”
After Earnhardt’s remarks ended, several million people said, yes, “You and me both, Junior.”
Earnhardt magnanimously says he wishes the best for his teammate, but some of his fans probably wouldn’t mind a first-lap Talladega wreck collecting Kenseth, Johnson and Kyle Busch. Not that they’d wish any bad luck on anyone, but if it happened, and it got Earnhardt back within striking range, well, you know, it’s a long shot, but stranger things have happened, particularly on The Cartoon Network.