Jimmie Johnson puts another brick in the wall

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

-You know folks, the results that came out of Sunday's race at Indianapolis got me thinking, so I looked back at the other 15 previous races. What's interesting is out of the 16 races run there, 14 of them have been won by champions. The only two races not won by champions were won by Ricky Rudd and Kevin Harvick. That's pretty impressive.
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To take that a step further, seven times the winner of the Brickyard race has gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship. I think it's the importance and stature that race has in our sport now. Drivers will tell you that next to the Daytona 500, racing at the Brickyard every summer is our second-biggest race of the year. I think that's why a championship-caliber driver and team rise to the occasion with a race of this magnitude. Lots of people run well there, like Juan Pablo Montoya on Sunday, but as history has proven out, it's our champions that rise to the occasion. Speaking of Juan, I felt so bad for him. Man, what a heartbreaker for him. He could have written his name in the record books by winning Sunday because he has also won the Indy 500. That would have been an amazing feat. He started on the outside pole and really never looked back all day long. He had a dominating car and led 116 laps. He really was in a league of his own. Unfortunately Juan broke one of my golden rules — "don't beat yourself." For the life of me, I can't figure out why a guy like Juan with a five-second lead on the field, not being pressured by anyone and gets caught speeding on pit road. Only thing I can think is it had to be a miscalculation on his tach. Juan was the only car the entire day caught speeding on entry. A few other cars got nabbed for speeding on exit which is common. I really was pulling for Juan with his retro paint scheme. He also was my dark horse pick to make the Chase. I think he'll make the Chase alright but winning Sunday could have gone a long way in guaranteeing it. I agree with what Chad Knaus mentioned after the race. The teams have timing and scoring for cars on the track, but they don't have it for when the cars come on pit road. If that information is available and if you are going to nab people for speeding on pit road, quite honestly, the teams need to have access to it. To me it seems like it would make it a lot easier for the teams to regulate their speeds on pit road if in fact they could see the speeds they were running up and down pit road. What's wrong with giving the teams the information to do a better job? Also, while I was thinking about how it always seems that our champions win at Indy, it got me thinking of driver/crew chief combinations and the chemistry they have. There's no question in my mind that Jimmie and Chad are at the head of the class when it comes to chemistry. In my mind, they are also right up there with the greatest driver/crew chief combinations in the history of our sport. Think back to the Petty/Inman era. David Pearson/Leonard Wood, me and Jeff Hammond, Earnhardt and Kirk Shelmerdine, Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham ... and the list goes on and on. There really have been some amazing pairings across the history of NASCAR, but I have never seen a combination and team like the No. 48 bunch that is so well put together from top to bottom. They lack nothing. That's why they win the big races and that's why they are going for a history-making fourth consecutive championship. Certainly on Sunday Jimmie and Chad put another brick in the wall towards No. 4. This team knows how to peak at just the right time. It truly is phenomenal to watch. Jimmie gives excellent feedback. Chad takes that and he and the team make the right adjustments at the right time. They did it again Sunday and showed why across the board in NASCAR, they are the team to beat. Everybody's been making a fuss over these double-file restarts. Listen, for the most part, all the restarts until you get cars laps down have been double-file restarts. The difference now is they mean something. You are racing people for position now more then ever before. This new rule certainly has added another twist and added excitement. It's just another element that has been added to the race and I don't see a thing wrong with it. I am a big fan of them. What's interesting to note is the use of the outside groove since the rule change. It's being used more than ever before because it seems to be the faster line. There seems to be a little more grip and more traction there. You are seeing with this new car that when you go down in the corner and if there is a car on your outside, it pins you down, gets you loose and the car on the outside drives off and leaves you. So we now have six races to go until the Chase: Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. Kyle Busch has just had a terrible run of luck. I know you think I am wild about Kyle Busch. I am wild about the way he drives. I am not a big fan of how he treats the media and fans when he loses. If you remember last year, I talked about that it is consistency that makes a champion. This year has been more realistic than last year when he was winning everything in sight until the Chase started. He's won three races this year in the Cup car, but he isn't having the luck he had last year. He's winning consistently in the Nationwide series and running pretty good in the truck series. I don't think he is out of the Chase yet. He and that team are capable of racing their way back in. However, they simply can't afford, again with only six races left, to have any more bad weekends. You have to admit, when Kyle has a car that is capable of winning, he sure is fun to watch. On the plus side, Kyle even seems to be working on his attitude. He even admitted that this weekend during an interview. If he can get his arms around that area and gets a handle on his emotions, then look out because he could be a contender. We will just have to wait and see.
Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch

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