By admin | November 8, 2008
By Richard Allen
Jimmie Johnson will be starting from the inside of the front row once again on Sunday in the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway. Unlike some of the previous weeks on the Sprint Cup circuit, he actually earned this one by posting the fastest qualifying lap.
However, the bigger story at the start of this race could be that the non Chase drivers outnumber the Chase drivers in the Top 10 and Top 20 starting positions. A bigger picture impact this could have on the race and the championship is that those non Chase drivers will have the better stalls on pit road.
In all, there are six non chasers who will start in the Top 10 on Sunday. A total of 13 non Chase participants will be scattered throughout the Top 20. Almost half of the Chase drivers will be in positions 21-43.
Carl Edwards, the driver who has the best shot at overtaking Johnson in the final two races, will start 15th.
Unlike in the multitude of races to have qualifying rained out in recent weeks, the 12 Chasers will not all be within sight of each other at the start this week. And, they will not have their choice of the best pit stalls.
Johnson and his team did what needed to be done on Friday to assure themselves the best possible chance of locking up a third consecutive Sprint Cup title. The other 11 Chase drivers will have a bit more work to do if they are to gain ground going into the last race of the season.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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