January 30th, 2015
Jimmie Johnson punched his ticket into the 2014 Chase with yet another Charlotte win. It is his seventh of his career, but first since 2009. The difference this year was not winning the All-Star race, which maybe gave him the focus to win the points paying race on Sunday.
With the win and leading 164 laps, Johnson moved from fifth on the all-time Charlotte laps led list (for Sprint Cup) up to second. He is only behind Bobby Allison on that list, needing to lead 606 more laps to tie him. Johnson was able to get ahead of Cale Yarbrough, David Pearson, and Richard Petty, all drivers who are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. If six championships weren’t enough, Johnson is doing a lot of other things to get himself into the Hall.
Other notable jumps on the laps led board are Brad Keselowski going from 56th to 47th all-time and Kevin Harvick made the biggest jump. He led 100 laps on Sunday to go from 86th all-time to 60th.
Another great run for Aric Almirola, who finished 11th on the night. He made the U.S. Air Force proud with his effort and has continued to chip away after a rough start to the season.
Dave Blaney has now failed to qualify for seven of the season’s first 12 races, plus three withdrawals. You can only image the clock is ticking on he and that team’s ability to survive with these missed races. I can see them replacing Blaney before long, but it’s hard to figure out who might replace him if they go that route. They need a driver who can get them into races and park. Only other driver I can think of is David Reutimann, but he has struggled to make races for Front Row Motorsports this season when he’s been tapped to drive for them.
Cannot give enough props to Kurt Busch, who finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day before trying to tackle 600 miles at Charlotte. It wasn’t meant to be after his engine expired on lap 271. It was a great accomplishment for a driver who had never raced an IndyCar event before Sunday (minus practices).
On the Cup side, Busch is now 28th in the standings with a little cushion between he and the 30th place driver in Michael Annett. I think it would take a total collapse for Busch to be knocked out of the top-30 and stay there, but he is in some dangerous water. Without being in the top-30 that win means nothing and he’s not in the Chase. I think from here on out he and his Stewart-Haas Racing team will ratchet down their aggression and just try to finish races.
Kevin Harvick has rebounded nicely since being on the bubble watch after some tough races to start the season. He has vaulted back to 12th place in the standings and with more strong runs like Sunday, he will be a force to move up before the cut off in Richmond.
Jeff Gordon holds on and extends his lead in the driver standings over Matt Kenseth. It is now 11 points between the two drivers, with Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. still making up the top-5. Not that standings positioning means much, but someone like Kenseth without a win, the closer to the front you can stay the more likely you’ll get into the Chase.
Great time for Jimmie Johnson to get back on track, next up the series goes to Dover where Johnson has won a record eight times in his career. He will be looking to keep it up and gain bonus points for the Chase for sure.