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Thursday, November 16, 2006

What if…

Matt Kenseth pitted at Dover?

Kenseth dominated at Dover, leading 215 laps and was out front as the final caution waved with 78 laps left. Kenseth stayed out while most cars pitted. Kenseth ran out of gas while running second to Jeff Burton and finished 10th. Had Kenseth pitted he would have finished no worse than second, and it’s doubtful Burton would have caught him on equal tires. It was a difference of 56 points, meaning Kenseth would trail Jimmie Johnson by 7 points instead of 63.

Dale Earnhardt Jr stayed on track at Martinsville?

Junior spun late in the race while running 7th. His car had run in the top five most of the day. He got too aggressive, made contact with Kasey Kahne and spun late. While his aggressive attitude is admirable, the move cost him at least 50 points to the leaders.

Mark Martin had a turn signal at Lowes?

Then maybe JJ Yeley wouldn’t have plowed into Martin while he tried to pit and demolished his best speedway car in the process. That sent the 6 team into a tailspin that ended all chances of challenging for the title.

Jeff Gordon’s team had quality control?

Gordon’s fuel pump went kaput at Kansas and lost an engine at Lowe’s. He was running in the top ten in both races, when problems out of his control struck. His average finish in the other seven races is 9.4.

There is a big problem with what-ifs. Two of Jimmie Johnson’s bad finishes would fall into the what-if category too. With different outcomes at Kansas and Talladega, Johnson would have completely obliterated the competition. He was running first at Kansas when he had to pit late and was caught speeding, relegating him to 12th. Had the caution flown for either Kasey Kahne’s spin or Gordon’s speeding penalty, (as it should have), Johnson probably finishes no worse than second. That cost him 49-59 points.

The next week he was about to pass Earnhardt for the lead on the last lap at Talladega when Brian Vickers spun him and Earnhardt out to win the race. Johnson again would have finished first or second. That cost him 79-89 points.

Two races costing a total of 128-148 points. That’s nearly a whole race. That means instead of his current streak of top 2 finishes would be at 7 and the Chase might be clinched by now. If this shows one thing it is how absolutely dominating the 48 team has been.

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