Restarts could alter title Chase

People have been asking me what I thought about the racing in Charlotte over the weekend. So I ask them, what racing in Charlotte? All I saw was the Jimmie Johnson Show.

I think Johnson sent a clear statement that he is going to retain his championship while at the same time set a NASCAR record by winning four championships in a row. I was blown away how he made it clear to all his competitors they really didn’t want any of him. The total dominance of the team and crew really was crystal clear this past weekend.

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.

If you want to compare him to Tiger Woods, the New England Patriots or the Yankees, well, it really doesn’t matter to me. Sure, the 48 team hasn’t won it yet, but, dang, they sure look impressive trying to get it done.

The only real competitors I see on Jimmie’s horizon are his teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. I don’t think either of those two is done yet. They have gotten it where it is realistic. Don’t forget that we have Martinsville this weekend. If something were to break on Jimmie’s car or if he would get caught up in someone else’s problem, then they are right there to try to exploit it.

Double trouble

What I find interesting is the effect the double-file restarts are having on the Chase competitors. At California, it was Denny Hamlin. At Charlotte last weekend, Juan Pablo Montoya went downhill after getting crashed on a restart.

Have restarts always been a factor in racing? Heck, yes, but this new double-file restart rule NASCAR has instituted, while great for the fans, is gut-wrenching for the competitors. We’ve seen the effects it has had on the outcome of races.

These restarts are huge. They are the variable and the unknown over these last five races much like Talladega is viewed. Everybody, as we have told you repeatedly in the past, circles Talladega with a big red marker. No matter what you do there, you really can’t plan or anticipate enough. You simply have to hope and pray you don’t get caught up in someone else’s mistake.

I view this double-file restarts as the great equalizer a lot like a Talladega would be. It really would take only one restart for Jimmie to get caught up in someone else’s beatin’ and bangin’ that could have an effect of pulling Martin and Gordon back closer to Johnson.

It used to be with the restarts that lap-down cars were to your inside and you could pretty much clear them after a lap or so. Now with the new procedure, lap-down cars have been replaced with cars that are as good if not better than you are. So the only way to take advantage of it is to be in the front of the pack.

For example, this weekend at the short track of Martinsville, being the leader is going to be huge. If I am not the leader, well, I don’t want to be second. I would rather be third so that when we line up for the restart, I am behind the leader. I know that sounds crazy, but really, if you can’t lead, be third. Trust me, restarts at Martinsville will be a premium. The guy that gets hung on the outside at Martinsville will pay the price. We’ve seen it happen with lap-down cars in the past. So now we are going back here for the first time to the smallest track with this new procedure. The double-file restart is going to have an effect, I truly believe that. So that’s why I say you want to be first, third or fifth when it comes to restarting position. If I am a crew chief, you can bet I would make a call to let a car go by, because if a caution comes out, then you are in the catbird’s seat.

Then when you look a week ahead, you have more trouble lurking at Talladega.

I see this weekend and next being very defining as to who wears the champion’s crown in Homestead in November.

Quick thoughts

  • I feel bad for what happened to Juan Pablo Montoya, because I feel he got victimized at Charlotte. However, if it is going to be a championship-caliber team, then the No. 42 team is going to have to rally back this week.
  • Jeff Gordon always runs well at Martinsville, but he really needs to go win that race. That would be a great counter to what Jimmie is doing. Jeff is hanging tough, and could use a win this weekend and/or sneak a win out at Talladega. What he can’t afford to do is give up any more points to Johnson.