2009-10-22 / Sports

Johnson Wins At Charlotte

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is on the fast track to a fourth Sprint Cup championship. He now has a 90-point lead over teammate Mark Martin after his convincing win Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

It was almost the perfect weekend for Johnson. He won the pole, led every practice, led the most laps and won the race, his 46th career win, now tying him with Buck Baker at 13th on the all-time list.

It was Johnson’s sixth win at Lowes Motor Speedway and put him another step closer to a fourth consecutive championship, which would be a first in NASCAR history.

“We’re only halfway through this thing,” Johnson said. “So much can happen. It’s a nice points lead, but there’s no need for anybody to get too excited yet. There’s still a lot of danger out there, and we’ve just got to be smart.

“If we don’t have problems, I feel we have a very good chance to win this championship.”

Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex and Kurt Busch.

Mark Martin had his worst night of the Chase thus far after getting into the rear of Juan Montoya’s car on a restart. The accident ended Montoya’s streak of top-five finishes at four, and relegated Martin to a 17th-place finish. Montoya didn’t fare so well. He wound up 35th.

It was not a good night for other Chase drivers as well. Denny Hamlin ran with the leaders before losing an engine. Carl Edwards was the victim of an accident and his damaged car lost an engine when he returned to the track in an attempt to get as many points as possible. Edwards was 39th. Brian Vickers had another terrible run, finishing 34th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had mechanical issues with his car and finished 38th.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 5 of 10: 1. Johnson-5923, 2. Martin-5833, 3. J. Gordon-5788, 4. Stewart-5768, 5. Kurt Busch- 5746, 6. Montoya-5728, 7. Biffle- 5655, 8. Newman-5635, 9. Kahne- 5592, 10. Edwards-5582, 11. Hamlin 5551, 12. Vickers-5438

The Chase hopes for everyone except Johnson, Martin and Gordon have come to an end. It’s going to be hard if not impossible for any driver to make up 150 points in five races. It looks very difficult, even for Gordon, who is 135 points behind.

Kyle busch dominates in Nationwide race

Kyle Busch ran away from the rest of the field to win Friday’s Nationwide Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, followed by Mike Bliss, Dave Blaney, Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards. Top- 10 points leaders after 31 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-5004, 2. Edwards- 4809, 3. Keselowski-4732, 4. Leffler 4019, 5. Allgaier-3632, 6. S. Wallace-3523, 7. Bliss-3514, 8. Keller-3495, 9. Gaughan-3403, 10. McDowell-3185

NASCAR update: Roush Racing won the 2000 Truck Series championship with Greg Biffle as the driver, but that will soon be in the past.

“The cost of finding adequate sponsors has simply gotten too high,” Jack Roush said.

“It’s been a happy time in the Truck series. It’s a worthwhile series. When Chrysler came in in the ‘90s and Toyota came in just after the turn of the century and brought their sponsorships, it discounted the sponsorships that other nonautomotive affiliations would make.

“Dodge stepped into one of my sponsorship arrangements. When they came in and offered two trucks that were half the price for what was required to run one of my trucks, they basically discounted 75 percent.”

“All that was created by NASCAR’s insistence that before these manufacturers came in and went into the Cup side that they had to spend so much time on the Truck side. Since they didn’t have sponsors, they had to pay for it themselves. That left the rest of us with a bill for paying the difference between what a sponsor would not pay and what the costs were, and they were just too big.”

Roush has entered more than 700 truck races since 1995 and helped launch the careers of Sprint Cup drivers Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.

Meanwhile Erik Darnell, Roush Fenway Racing’s last “Driver X,” appears to be without a ride in the organization for 2010.

Darnell won the team’s “Gong Show” competition in 2004, earning a seat in one of Roush’s trucks. But after running three full seasons in Trucks, Darnell was moved to part-time duty in the Nationwide Series for 2009. Still, he may not have a seat with the team next year.

“We’re open with Erik,” said Roush. “We’re open to do something with Erik, and I’d very much like to. But right now, I don’t have a sponsor to stand in line that has singled out Erik. I’m just not certain.”

NASCAR announced the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame that includes: Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.

Also receiving votes were David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison

The NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel, consisting of members of the nominating committee along with 29 others representing NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, major race track ownership groups, retired drivers, owners and crew chiefs along with motorsports media representatives, met in a closed session in Charlotte, N.C. to vote on the induction class of 2010.

As part of the inclusive voting process, more than 670,000 fans submitted votes online at NASCAR.COM as part of the fan voting process.

The nominees included many of the sport’s legendary names: Bobby Allison, Buck Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Richie Evans, Tim Flock, Bill France Jr., Bill France Sr., Rick Hendrick, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame broke ground in Charlotte on Jan. 25, 2007, and will open May 11, 2010. The facility honors the history and heritage of NASCAR and the many who have contributed to the success of NASCAR.

The Class of 2010 will be officially inducted in a ceremony on May 23, 2010, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Weekend racing: The Camping World Trucks and Sprint Cup teams are at the .52-mile Martinsville Speedway, while the Nationwide series is at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Sat., Oct. 24, Camping World Trucks Martinsville 250, race 21 of 25; Starting time: 12:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed Channel.

Sat., Oct. 24, Nationwide Series Kroger 250, race 32 of 35; Starting time: 3 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Oct. 25, Sprint Cup Tums 500, race 32 of 36; Starting time: 1 p.m. (EDT): TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: Will two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte come out of retirement for the 2010 cup season?

Last week’s question: Will Michael Waltrip return as a driver in 2010? Answer. Waltrip has said he would like to run a full season in the Nationwide Series. Right now, he does not plan on racing in the Cup Series.

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