Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sprint Cup 2010: Race 30 -- Jimmie Johnson's Homecoming

The Sprint Cup tour goes to LA-LA land this weekend to compete in what will be the last of a two race a year schedule at Fontana, California, since it was awarded the Labor Day date which had historically belonged to Darlington as the Southern 500, the track has failed miserably attracting acceptable crowds for its two races. The fall race will remain and the schedule will be juggled to allow a second date for Kansas where they raced last weekend.

The two big stories this week besides how the chasers fair is Ford and the unacceptable situation the start and park nonsense creates reaching a new level of insanity this week. During the first two thirds of the season, only a fluke would find a Ford in the top 10 qualifiers. This week, Elliot Sadler starts 2nd, Matt Kenseth trying to gain some hope in the chase starts 3rd, Kasey Kahne starts 5th and Greg Biffle, last week’s winner, starts 7th.

Nine entries will start the race on Sunday with no intention to compete looking for a way to quietly head to the garage. Once again, the #26 team with full Air National Guard sponsorship is bumped by more than 20% of the field who are “start and park entries.

Imagine former champ, Bobby Labonte’s frustration for having been the odd-man out in the Richard Petty/Gillette Racing merger before the 2009 season. Racing with the #71 team until sponsorship lapsed becoming a start and park fraud operation, he quit only to wind up with Phoenix Racing, another quit and split team.

To say that these are fledgling teams getting exposure simply isn’t true. The drivers are not ones coveted by major teams and the ownership groups surely are not the kind of outfits that are going anywhere on the sport’s top level.

Sprint Cup is no place to get a taste of big time racing. There are the two regional series, Camping World Trucks, and the Nationwide Series for that.

If there were only 34 or 35 cars starting Sunday’s race, who’d miss the clutter in the first few laps? Get rid of them!

Let’s look at where the chasers start on Sunday – starting position shown to left and standings position to right of driver’s name. Jamie McMurray with the hottest car not in the chase sits on the pole.

3) Matt Kenseth, Ford – 11th
7) Greg Biffle, Ford – 8th
8) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy – 1st
13) Clint Bowyer, Chevy – 12th
15) Jeff Burton, Chevy – 9th
16) Kyle Busch, Toyota – 7th
17) Jeff Gordon, Chevy – 5th
20) Carl Edwards, Ford – 4th
21) Kevin Harvick, Chevy – 3rd
22) Tony Stewart, Chevy – 10th
34) Denny Hamlin, Toyota – 2nd
38) Kurt Busch, Dodge – 6th

California home cooking must do Jimmie Johnson well given his top ten starting position and how far back in the field many of his key competitors are with no other top five drivers starting better than 20th. If Greg Biffle can seize momentum from last week and take advantage of a favorable starting position, he’s set to make his move to advance up the field.

For most of the chasers, the must exercise brilliant pit strategy, stay out of trouble as they advance through the thick of the field, and not make any mistakes if they hope to gain a finish that will help their position vis-à-vis Jimmie Johnson.

This lineup looks very good for giving the Lowes Chevy a chance to widen its lead versus the rest of the field. No doubt, the drive for five is definitely alive.


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