Johnson now has a 182-point lead over Martin. Considering that the last three tracks on the schedule -- Texas, Phoenix and Homestead -- are three of Johnson's best, this Chase is essentially over. "I'm not going to let up and lose focus to the job I need to do and allow the championship to be in the forefront of my mind until it's mathematically locked up," Johnson said. "I can still lose 165 points next week if I miss a shift and blow the engine at the start of the Texas race and Mark has a perfect day.
"So with all that in mind, yes, I am feeling much better about things. I was so concerned about this race. I thought I was going to lose points with about three or four [laps] to go. So to have it turn around and leave with points, I didn't expect it.
"It's a very, very good situation we're in."
Yes it is. Johnson is poised to make history as the first driver to win four straight Cup championships.
After every wreck, NASCAR takes the damaged car to its R&D center in Concord, N.C., to examine every inch of the vehicle. Certainly, one question the engineers and safety experts will try to address is what more can be done to keep the cars from going at airborne at restrictor-plate tracks. The roof flaps on Newman's Chevy did deploy, but that didn't keep Newman from heading skyward. Something, clearly, needs to be done. Otherwise, someone will soon be seriously injured -- or worse -- at Talladega.
Still, McMurray's always been an outstanding restrictor-plate racer, and on Sunday he showed that again. Late in the race, he rode the draft to the front and then held on as the two Big Ones happened behind him. This ended an 85-race winless streak and put some life into what has been a miserable season. Word around the garage is that he'll be moving to the No. 1 car next year at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
What should be done? Well, it would cost millions of dollars, but if the banking in the corners, which is 33 degrees, were flattened out, then drivers would have to use their brakes. This would spread the cars out, lessen the importance of aerodynamics and the draft, create an atmosphere for better racing, and, obviously, reduce speeds. An ancillary benefit of doing this: the racing would be safer.