By admin | November 9, 2008
By Richard Allen
The term ‘points racer’ has always carried a negative connotation in racing. The term has been used to describe a driver who seems content to ride along, not take any chances, and rejoice in a Top 10 finish.
“That was a good points day for us,” is a quote often attributed to ‘points racer’ after he climbs from his car to discuss his 9th place finish.
Jimmie Johnson and his team are changing the definition of what it means to be a ‘points racer’. By their definition, a good points day is when their car wins the race and leads the most laps in the process.
“Now, that’s the way to points race,” crew chief Chad Knaus said over the team radio as his driver crossed the finish line in Martinsville. “Get as many as you can.”
That is the very strategy this Hendrick Motorsports team employed Sunday in Phoenix. Johnson won the race, lead the most laps and collected 195 points in the process.
Johnson entered the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 with a seemingly comfortable 106 point lead over Carl Edwards. Many teams would have had their driver go out, take it easy and protect the lead so that going into the final race of the season they could do the very same thing all over again.
That is not the mindset of team #48. Instead, they came to Phoenix with the intent of winning the race and burying the competition. They essentially did just that. Johnson’s win gives him a 141 point cushion over Edwards going into Homestead.
On Friday, Johnson demonstrated just what his team’s intentions were for the weekend by winning the pole, which provided much needed track position and a prime pit stall.
At the start of the race, Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Jamie McMurray raced Johnson hard in an attempt to prevent him from leading a lap. The ploy did not work, however, as Johnson eventually made it to the front of the pack where he stayed for much of the remainder of the event.
Last year, Johnson used much the same strategy. He charged to his second consecutive Sprint Cup title by winning four of the last five races. Sunday’s win was his third victory within this year’s Chase for the Championship.
Jimmie Johnson is indeed changing the definition of a ‘points racer’. By going out and getting maximum points he is giving himself the best possible chance to win yet another title rather than allowing his competitors back in the game by taking it easy.
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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