Whenever we go to race at Dover International Speedway, Miles the Monster looms over you outside the race track.
The drivers that go there fear ol’ Miles. They are afraid of what he’ll do to their race car. OK, well that is everyone except Jimmie Johnson. When Miles sees Jimmie, he starts shaking. Jimmie is the only thing Miles is scared of because he knows Jimmie owns him.
As bad, mean and contrary as Miles is, he can’t stop Jimmie who now has 10 wins at Dover. Jimmie is so bad he makes air dirty. When it comes to Dover, Jimmie is in a league of his own. It is simply amazing all the success Jimmie has had there. Sunday marked Jimmie’s 74th win in only 484 starts.
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I call Jeff Gordon the "Greatest of All Time." I’m starting to believe that Jimmie is the "Greatest of Our Time." I’m truly in awe at all the man has accomplished in a relatively short period of time. All those wins coupled with six championships is simply phenomenal.
If you were able to catch our FOX Sports 1 pre-race show you heard us talking about the radio chatter between Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus. I think Chad talks to Jimmie the same way Junior Johnson talked to me over the radio. When I drove for Junior he would call me "Cale" over the radio, as in NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, who won three championships for Junior.
Junior did it to get a rise out of me. He knew he got under my skin every time he did that. He knew every time he called me Cale that I would get up on that wheel and drive just that much harder. I would show him that I wasn’t Cale and that I was better than Cale. So it was a motivational tool that Junior Johnson used on me.
So, I see and hear the same thing from these two when they go back and forth. I think Chad tries to get under Jimmie’s skin to irritate him just to get more out of him. For the longest time Jimmie wouldn’t say much more back to Chad other than, "10-4." They’ve been together so long and know each other so well that Jimmie has fired back at times over the radio the last few years.
That’s the classic example of a great driver-crew chief combination. The chemistry and trust is there. It shows the power of what two people can do together. They can get after each other and say things to each other in the heat of battle on Sunday, but it’s all forgotten come Monday.
These two remind me of Richard Petty and Dale Inman when they ruled our sport.
Now, just like then, all the focus is on winning races and championships. Chad is also phenomenal with surrounding himself with smart people. So here they sit with four wins in only 13 races in 2015. For as poorly as they ran in the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, they sure made up for it in spades at Dover on Sunday.
Drivers always have their favorite tracks. They are the ones a driver can’t wait to get to and are supremely confident in. They expect to win there and are crushed when they don’t. It was that way for me at Bristol. It’s that way for Jimmie at Dover. It’s simply a racetrack that agrees with Jimmie’s racing style.
So the No. 48 is back in rare form. Sunday’s win moved them up two spots in the points behind only Martin Truex Jr. and points leader Kevin Harvick.
Speaking of Kevin, who finished second yet again, that was his ninth top-two finish in 13 races. That’s incredible. Here’s something else that will blow your mind. He and Martin Truex Jr. have 12 top-10 finishes in the 13 races run so far this season.
Speaking of Martin, if they keep giving him great cars that have been, the man is going to win. He has too. You simply can’t run upfront as much as he has and not have some luck fall your way. I just hope all of them over there at the No. 78 car keep their head up and stay positive. I don’t want to hear them start up about being "snake bite" or having "bad luck" or saying they aren’t sure "we’ll ever win one or not." So while they didn’t get the finish they were hoping for, they still had a great day at Dover.
NASCAR Sprint Cup racing is a humbling sport. Like I mentioned earlier about Jimmie struggling at Charlotte but winning at Dover a week later, just the opposite can be said about Joe Gibbs Racing. That bunch won about everything there was to win those two weeks at Charlotte, but they came to Dover last week and Miles the Monster ate them up and spit them out. Out of four cars, the best they could do at Dover on Sunday was Carl Edwards finishing 19th.
So, now we move onto the unique physique of Pocono Raceway on Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept the Pocono events last year so it will be interesting to see if he can keep that streak going. Denny Hamlin always runs well there so it will be interesting to see if he can bounce back from a dismal Dover outing. I’d also keep an eye on Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch this weekend. They both run really well at Pocono.