By admin | September 26, 2010
By Richard Allen
Jimmie Johnsonâ€™s attempt to win a fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup title did not get off to the start he would have hoped for last week at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway when a late race incident and loose wheel left him in the 25th position at the drop of the checkered flag.
However, Johnsonâ€™s efforts may have received a significant boost in Dover without the cars even having turned a single lap in the AAA 400.
First, the Hendrick Motorsports car #48 team proved it was still a force to be reckoned with when Johnson took the pole position on Friday afternoon. But perhaps more importantly, Johnson and team have been able to sit back and watch some of their most threatening rivals pick each other apart as the weekend has gone on.
Many would have considered Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick as Johnsonâ€™s biggest challengers for this yearâ€™s Cup. Hamlin won the most races coming into the Chase for the Sprint Cup and thus scored more bonus points after the points reset. Harvick had built up a commanding points lead prior to the reset and looked to pick up where he left off once the playoff began.
After last weekâ€™s victory by Clint Bowyer at NHMS that Richard Childress Racing team was hammered by NASCAR for the car not being in compliance with the sanctioning bodyâ€™s mandates. Hamlin said in an early weekend press conference that the RCR organization had been given breaks from the rules for quite some time.
Apparently RCR driver Harvick took exception to Hamlinâ€™s comments and made his point on Hamlinâ€™s rear bumper when the cars took to the track for practice. Soon after, Harvick and Hamlin went nose to nose in the garage area in a heated debate.
Meanwhile, the #48 team was busily working away preparing their car for Sundayâ€™s race.
Could it be that drivers finally have a chance to beat Johnson over the course of the final ten race playoff but will eliminate themselves by feuding with each other rather than remaining focused on the task at hand?
Only time will tell, but Johnson may very well find himself laughing all the way to the bank as his chief competitors feud and eliminate themselves.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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