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Friday, September 08, 2006

How did I miss this?

Prior to Daytona in February, I predicted my top ten drivers for the Chase. Several were no brainers and a few were longer shots. Champions like Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart were slam dunks. I figured Dale Earnhardt Jr would regain his form, and I thought Kyle Busch was ready to make the top ten. The always consistent Mark Martin could get in, especially based on how dominant Roush Racing was in ’05. It makes me look pretty smart with all six in the top ten heading to Richmond.

I also missed on a few that the majority of people whiffed on. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle I haven’t’ seen a person that didn’t pick both to make the Chase. It also was logical to think a Penske driver, either Kurt Busch or Ryan Newman would solve the Charger enough to run up front. Wrong and really wrong (for the record Penske didn’t solve the Intrepid either). It gets worse. For some reason I thought Yates would figure things out to get Elliot Sadler back in the Chase. Now maybe Evernham will, in 2007.

Things happen to teams that surprise everyone. How is it possible that Edwards will not only miss the Chase, but may go winless? While it’s surprising to see Busch struggle, it can’t be considered a total shock after his move to Penske South. While I didn’t think Jeremy Mayfield was an elite driver, I didn’t think he would run in the 30’s every week.

These surprises still are no match for my worst omission. Sixty percent is pretty good under these conditions, but how in the world did I not pick Jimmie Johnson? At the time I reasoned there was no way Hendrick would get 3 cars in. Of course that didn’t stop me from erroneously reserving four spots for Roush cars. I also thought Johnson might be due for a letdown after running so well. That logic looks terrible now.

After the early controversy at Daytona, Johnson's season has been dull. Successful, rich and dull.Sure he has four wins, plus the All-Star race, the most top tens, led the points the past 18 weeks, and the most money. Most weeks Johnson is found somewhere in the top ten avoiding trouble and headlines. He is ninth in total laps led (364), yet second in wins. He has finished every race inside the top 15 except for three.

The past two years Johnson struggled during the summer months and lost momentum heading towards the Chase. This year he is cruising towards the final ten races with no issues to speak of. The tracks set up well for him, and he closes quickly. His six total wins in the last two playoffs is tops, no one else has more than two. Barring major catastrophe, Johnson is positioned to finally win his first Cup. And that won't be overlooked.