Burton is ready for a win; Joe Gibbs lays down the double-dipping law
But it's not the adage that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" that's defining the 42-year-old Burton's season. In fact, when you peel away his penchant for making mistakes, you see Burton is actually driving under a very different, and lesser known, axiom: Martin's Law.
Through 12 races, Burton is eighth in the points with eight finishes of 12th or better, including five top-5s. On the surface it's not that much of an improvement from last year, when he had five top-10s at this point in the season, but the difference is that Burton isn't just running near the front, he's been a contender in nearly every race. On more than one occasion, he's had the best car on the track. He could have won at Fontana and Darlington and he's led a combined 279 laps in eight events. He still hasn't reached Victory Lane since Oct. 11, 2008, a span of 53 races, but this year you feel like it's only a matter of
Basically, Burton is having the year Martin had last season, and as for Martin? Well, much like with Burton, the would-be title contender's numbers don't tell the entire story.
Martin may have a better average finish (15.0) than at this point last season, be 11th compared to 12th last season, and boast five top-5s, but what's been missing is his calling card: consistency. Martin has thrown bad finishes after good, posting stretches of 33rd, 35th and 21st after two fourth-place efforts and was 25th, 16th and 15th after going fourth, sixth and fifth.
Like the rest of Martin's Hendrick Motorsports brethren, you'll hear the spoiler as a culprit, but no matter what's on the back of the car, Martin has led a combined 42 laps this season and five times his start-to-finish plus/minus stats have been minus 11 or greater, meaning when he's struggled, he and crew chief
Maybe it's the finality of knowing his retirement from running a full schedule is drawing near, with
"That's kind of the plan," he said. "You know, that's the way I've always done it, and that's why I've always raced as much as I race."
Gibbs clearly has his reasons for reigning in his drivers' extracurricular activities; he needs Busch and Hamlin to be strong in November, something running multiple races (especially for Hamlin, who is still rehabbing from knee surgery) doesn't help with. But is The Coach messing with a good thing? In the past two weeks, Busch and Hamlin have both followed up Nationwide wins with Cup victories, races that gave his drivers invaluable knowledge that practice and qualifying can't. Plus, if Busch thinks a full weekend gives him an edge, why disrupt his psyche by taking that away?
There's no hotter team in the game right now than Joe Gibbs Racing, and Gibbs himself, who won three Super Bowls with the Redskins, ought to know that if something isn't broken, you shouldn't try and fix it. Of course, my colleague Tom Bowles
Who wants to be a millionaire? Or, more precisely, who wants to win $1,058,656? Johnson has six top-5s in the event, including wins in 2003 and 2006. But two major reasons I'm rolling with J.J.: 1) He's driven after a pit penalty cost him at Dover and helped one of his biggest rivals take the checkered flag and 2) In a race broken down into four segments with mandatory pit stops, you have to go with the smartest guys in the room, and until they've been knocked off, that leaves Johnson and