Race 4 of the Chase at Kansas Speedway has come and gone, and the championship standings have taken even more of a shuffle than last week. The key factors coming out of Kansas:
- Honestly, you didn’t really think that Jimmie Johnson wasn’t going to step up and take this thing by the horns, did you? Granted, I didn’t expect him to dominate like he did today, but I’m not the least bit surprised. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again, it blows my mind how quickly people were writing that team off after two poor races to start the Chase. They’ve only responded by dominating the last two races and jumping from 10th to 3rd in the standings. Add to that the fact that the Cup series is headed to Charlotte next week, and there’s a very good chance that Johnson will be in complete control when the Chase reaches the halfway point. Looks like the 48 team winning a record sixth-consecutive Sprint Cup title isn’t as out-of-the-question as people were hoping.
- Yet another rehash of something I said last week, but Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick both continue to impress me. Both appeared to be headed towards finishes outside the top-15 at multiple points today. But both were able to rebound and, low and behold, they finished 5th and 6th respectively. I keep saying that these are the days that prove that both of these teams are championship material. It became the 48 team’s M.O. when they were driving to five-straight titles. Winning is great, but the way you win championships is to finish 5th with a 15th-place car, like Edwards did today, or 6th-with a 16th place car, a la Harvick today. Those two teams aren’t going anywhere.
- A team that did go somewhere today was Jeff Gordon’s. The 24 team (who I picked to win this whole thing, mind you) is effectively done after his engine blew with three laps left today. That’s a shame, but that team looked great for a lot of this season. Gordon is rejuvenated with Alan Gustafson on the pit box for him, and with this first “learning” year out of the way, that team will come back solid in 2012 and compete for the championship again.
As much as I hate to say it, I would not be shocked by a repeat performance next Saturday night in Charlotte from Jimmie Johnson. He used to be the man to beat everytime he showed up there, and while the 48 team hasn’t dominated in recent years like they did in the past, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone carrying more momentum than that team. That’s going to make them hard to beat on Saturday night.