Johnson’s Lead Becomes Virtually Unstoppable
Until now, there’s always been a question of “what if?” when it comes to the Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards scenario. Though Johnson has been in the lead for some time now, a couple of bad races and interesting finishes have put a stop to any claims that he is completely unbeatable this racing season – until now that is.
When the cars crossed the finish line at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, any possibilities of Edwards beating Johnson in the series were put to an end. Jimmie Johnson absolutely dominated the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, taking the checkered flag and enjoying his 40th career victory. He led for 217 of the possible 313 laps in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. The win was his third straight triumph on the track and his seventh so far this season. It gave him a commanding 141-point lead over his chief rival, Carl Edwards. Johnson is so far ahead now, that he’d have to finish below 36th in the big season finale next weekend in order to lose it. For someone who has been dominating the track since the beginning of the season, that’s very unlikely. So many people now consider Johnson winning the series to be just a formality. When he takes to the Homestead-Miami Speedway in just one week’s time, he’ll not only be winning the championship, he’ll be clinching his third championship so far. If everything goes according to plan, Johnson will become the second driver in NASCAR‘s history to win three straight titles, after Cale Yarborough.
But Edwards and his team haven’t given up just yet. Mathematically speaking, Edwards still has a sliver of a chance if Johnson runs into some bad luck and ends up at the back of the pack. Edwards remarked: “It’s possible, not real probable, but I guarantee that’s not going to change the way we do business. We’re going to go to Homestead with everything we’ve got and be aggressive and try to win the race.” During the course of Sunday’s race, Kurt Busch had as many as five opportunities to challenge Johnson’s lead. Instead he ended up watching Johnson’s skill in awe. He remarked: “It was unbelievable to watch that type of display and it’s something pretty special.”