Little bad luck goes a long way for Martin, JPM

After Jimmie Johnson dominated at Charlotte last weekend, I now really only see two or three players left in the 2009 Chase. Sure, mathematically there are still guys in it with five races to go, but I really see Jimmie’s only remaining competition actually coming from his teammates.

Now after everything got jumbled up at Lowe’s Motor Speedway last Saturday night, what Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are faced with depends on two things. First it will be dependent on their performance and then the performance, or, actually, lack of performance of the No. 48.

It’s not over


It may look like nothing can keep Jimmie Johnson from a fourth straight title. But Jorge Mondaca actually found five potential pitfalls.

I mean c’mon, lets face it. Realistically the only team that can beat the No. 48 is the No. 48. It could be a flat tire this weekend at Martinsville, or get caught in a big wreck next week at Talladega, or maybe an engine going south on them at Texas. If it was just based on performance, well you can go ahead and drag the engraver out and tell him to get Jimmie’s fourth trophy ready. You simply aren’t going to beat that No. 48 performance-wise.

Sure, luck plays a role in racing, but also you can play a role in your luck. Look at the No. 11 car. You could say they had bad luck at Lowe’s when they blew an engine. But was it really luck? They blew an engine. I mean the bottom line was that it was a mechanical failure.

Really the two guys that have had bad luck in the Chase are probably Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya from the situation that happened this past week. They were victims of other cars brake-checking and checking up on restarts and they ended up being the victims.

Now on the performance side of things, Montoya seemed to be on par with that No. 48. He had a top-five car again Saturday night and then got caught up, as I mentioned, in the restart deal.

So this weekend we head to the short track at Martinsville, Va. If you look at the record there for our 12 Chase drivers, it has either been feast or famine. Johnson, Gordon, Stewart and Hamlin have all been good there. However, if you look at the other eight drivers, it has not been a very good track for them.

Following Martinsville there are only four races left in the 2009 season and you can expect to see that No. 48 car race really smart for the most part. Jimmie Johnson said in a post-race interview that with about 17 laps to go he almost lost control of his car and so he eased up some. He relaxed and brought home another win. I always tell people that Jimmie is a good race car driver but more importantly he is a smart race car driver.

Honestly I think the No. 5, the No. 24, the No. 14, the No. 42 and No. 2 have to be smart but they better get after it and swing for the fence. They have to beat that No. 48 car. A good top five or top 10 will no longer be good enough. They have to lead the most laps and win the race. If they don’t, there isn’t a driver out there that will be able to beat Jimmie for the championship this year.

The other six remaining drivers in the Chase, well, they can just focus on trying to put a win on the board, get this season over with and prep for 2010. There’s probably not a team out there more eager to see the 2009 season end than the No. 83 team. They’ve only had two top-20 finishes in the first five Chase races this year. Remember, that looked to be the best Cup team out there during the summer months. It looks like they used all their energy and luck up just trying to get in the Chase.

Now is the time for all the folks our there to try and fix their problems before going into 2010. Whether it is crew chief issues or car issues or potential engine issues or even potential pit crew issues — this is where you fix it right now. That especially goes for those bottom six teams in the Chase and everyone else outside the Chase. You simply can’t wait until November or during the offseason to fix problems.