The Chase is more than the top spot

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, November 8, 2008

With two races left in the 2008 season, Carl Edwards is adding some excitement and intrigue to the Chase. But it will be too little, too late. I don’t see him catching Jimmie Johnson for the championship.

Entering last week’s race at Texas, Johnson held a 183-point lead over Edwards and appeared to be headed for a blow-out margin in winning his third straight cup. However, getting a lap down early and a terrible set-up ended up earning Johnson a 15th place finish. Edwards ran more laps on a tank of gas than humanly possible and won the race.

Edwards’ eighth win of the year trimmed 77 points from Johnson’s lead that now stands at 106 points with Phoenix and Homestead left on the schedule. If Johnson finishes seventh or better in both of those races, it matters not how Edwards finishes.

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The way Johnson has been running in the chase, that scenario is definitely not out of the realm of possibility. Only once in the eight prior chase races, at Texas, has J. J. finished outside the top-10.

Even though the spotlight will be on Johnson and Edwards for the final two races, there are other storylines to watch over the next two weeks.

The last year Jeff Gordon completed a season without a win was 1993, his rookie season as a cup driver. The 14-year streak of winning at least one race is in dire jeopardy as he has only two more chances to visit Victory Lane. Even more impressive than Gordon’s long streak is in each of those years he won multiple races with a low of two wins in 1993 and 2006, along with a career-high of 13 victories in 1998.

A. J. Allmendinger is another driver to watch during the next couple of weeks. The Dinger put together some pretty competitive runs for Gillette Evernham the last three races, but does not have a job next season. He’s a guy that was put in an awful situation last year with Team Red Bull in Toyota’s miserable first season. For the first 29 races this season, A. J. showed great promise in that same ride, but was let go several weeks ago to make way for Scott Speed. Here’s hoping someone offers Allmendinger a competitive ride next season.

The merger rumor mill continues to work overtime and the latest has DEI combining forces with Chip Ganassi. Both of these teams are in turmoil relative to sponsor commitments and driver commitments. Word is that the combined team would field the Nos. 1, 8, 41, and 42.

Let’s see, you have four teams, three drivers, and one and a half sponsors. Doesn’t add up to me. Of course, the No. 8 car is fully funded, for now, by Bass Pro Shops with Martin Truex driving. The No. 42 is set with Juan Montoya and partial sponsorship from Wrigley’s gum. Aric Almirola is the other driver under contract.

Ganassi has Target on the 41 car, but they have not committed to return next season, but a driver has not been named for that ride as of yet. Hey, Chip, if Target comes back, give the Dinger a call.

The race at Phoenix is always competitive and enjoyable, look for Dale Jr. to get another mark in the win column to round out 2008.