MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- As NASCAR's Chase for the Championship heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night, there are just five races left for anyone -- or anything -- to prevent
With four drivers within 107 points of Johnson's lead with six races left, let's take a look at five things that could keep J.J. from winning title No. 5:
Johnson is going to need to have a streak of bad luck or poor finishes at one or more of these tracks, while another driver in the Chase who is within striking distance will have to win the race to chip away at his lead. Just remember that nobody expected Chase drivers
Other danger zones could be an on-track incident with another car, running over debris or a mistake in the pits. But with
Of those tracks, Talladega appears to be the one where Johnson could lose a significant amount of points because of the quirky nature of restrictor plate racing; a driver can go from the front to back and then to the front again throughout the race. And with the prospect of The Big One -- a massive crash -- lurking around every turn, a top driver can get taken out of a race by someone else's mistake. Last year, Johnson was fortunate when a major crash at the end of the race allowed him to finish sixth.
But for what Talladega giveth, it can also taketh away, and that is always a concern for any driver in the Chase, especially Johnson.
Don't forget about
Since that time, Knaus has remained clean -- or at the very least is so far ahead of the NASCAR inspectors they haven't realized it yet. But if Knaus pushes the envelope too far and gets in trouble, it could affect the delicate chemistry the No 48 team has at Hendrick Motorsports.
If NASCAR's drivers and teams can't stop Johnson from a fifth championship, maybe the sinkhole can.
One lap later, Buescher returned the favor, turning into Patrick's Chevrolet and crashing the driver out of the race, just a few laps short of the finish. Patrick finished 30th.
"It looked like he turned me," Patrick said. "You know, I guess that's the way it goes. As I've been saying, the fun thing about these things is that that I've got fenders. I guess I'm learning how to use them."
Although Buescher denies the act was intentional, he admitted his car was pinned between the wall and Patrick's Chevy. Patrick's crew chief,
"It was pretty blatant," Eury said. "It's a shame you've got talent coming into the Nationwide Series like this who pulls a stunt like that so early in his career. Just like I told her, you just have to chalk it up and one day he'll have a good day."
Patrick was prepared to have a decent finish before the wreck and frankly, a decent finish at this stage of her NASCAR career would be a great day for the driver who finished the IndyCar season with a fifth-place at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 19 and second at Homestead on Oct. 2.
Patrick has five more NASCAR Nationwide Series races on her schedule this season including Friday night's 300-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"You're darn right, we are talking to Ganassi," Caponigro said. "We want to get Graham on one of the top teams in the series and that team is certainly at the top of the list."
Rahal's sponsor is TBC Retail Group and has entered into a multiyear spokesperson and sponsorship association with him to represent its family of tire and automotive retail brands. Now that a sponsor is in place, they are actively negotiating with several IndyCar Series teams, including Ganassi and Rahal Letterman Racing, to place Rahal in their car.
"Again, we are talking to a lot of teams," Rahal said. "Dad's team did a good job for me at Indy, but the best thing for me to do is not be in my father's shadow. I need to do it on my own. We have not canceled anything out, but we have a lot of teams in play."
When told about the possibility of being part of a three-car team in 2011, IndyCar Series champion
"I really know nothing about that," Franchitti said. "Until Chip talks to me about it then there is nothing to say. Until that point it's only speculation."
Last week, longtime sponsor 7-Eleven announced that it would not return at
IZOD also informed Andretti that it will not be the primary sponsor of
"You could have a 100-mile race, 200-, 300-, 400-, 500-, 1,000-mile race and it could come down to a fuel mileage race just because of the way cautions fall. It's that caution that puts some guys outside their window and some guys in their window, so it doesn't matter really how many miles it is, it can always end up a fuel mileage race, no matter how long or short the distance." --
"On to another year. It's over." --
"It's disappointing, but what can you do? It broke. Everybody is giving this program 110 percent, so you can't blame anybody. We were trying hard to win the title and it isn't going to happen this year." --
"This race track has struggled. I think it's been obvious that while we have a great fan base out here and I think we want to maintain that, you have to look at the sport, the whole sport and everything that's going on. When you leave Kansas Speedway and we've got an incredible crowd and just a huge group of fans are there and you look at how that race track and surrounding areas are growing ... it just makes more sense for us to be there. Whether it's the economy, whether it's this market, they can't even get an NFL franchise to work in this area. There's something about this area that is really tough when it comes to sports franchises and sports entertainment in general. I think that right now it's the right move. Hopefully we can get back to selling out this race and utilizing this market because it is a great market and then maybe one day come back and have two races." --
Charlotte Motor Speedway is just 19 miles from my residence, which means no hotel rooms for me this weekend. And while both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races will be held at night, the cool, crisp autumn air will be a nice change of pace as the action heats up in the Chase.