Nascar News and Notes (11/25/07)

Nascar Weekly News and Notes
by Virginia Vroom

Although the Chase is over for the year, I think it’s important that we
go back and look behind the scenes, specifically at Jimmie Johnson and
why he was so dominating over the course of the Chase.

With someone who came into the chase with a 400+ point lead over second
place Johnson, Jeff Gordon seemed quite confident and content with his
ability to win the Chase for the year. The drive for five was a quest
that Gordon intently set out on at the beginning of the year. It seemed
as though nothing could stop him with such dominating performances. An
onset of top fives and top tens is certainly more than enough to create
the lead that Gordon had by the end of the regular 26 race season.

With last year’s inconsistencies and falters, Gordon seemed determined
to bring some cohesiveness to his team and with Letarte having a little
more experience with Gordon and knowing his talents and drawbacks, it
seemed as though the days of the previous years were over for Gordon,
who had not dominated the scene since the mid-late 90s.

But evidently, a 400+ point lead is not enough to win you a
championship. With the new format, Gordon has seen at least one if not
two championships slip from his grasp because of lack of domination in
the last ten races. Undoubtedly, if the format remained the same as it
was prior to the Chase, Gordon would be at least a five time champion by
now; however, times have changed.

Jimmie Johnson is showing the new era of drivers how it is done. His
attitude going into races is what differentiates him from his teammate
and car owner. Gordon came into the chase knowing what his average
needed to be to win the Chase. There is one thing that he forgot,
though. Jimmie Johnson. Johnson did not look at the Chase in the same
light as Gordon.

Johnson took the stance that he needed to win. Nothing less than a win
would satisfy his thirst for defending his title as Nextel Cup Champion.
His determination and consistency shined through. Johnson, bewildered
by the time that he won at Texas, was doing what he set out to do. He
won four in a row in the Chase creating a dominating ten wins for the

With those kinds of numbers, it’s no wonder that Johnson was
able to come away with another title. Gordon must have forgotten the
importance of bonus points as well. With the increase in points for
winning a race from 5 points to ten points, Johnson came away with at
least 40 more points in bonuses just from WINNING races that Gordon did
not consider.

Gordon seems to be stuck between the old and the new. While Hendrick
teams seem to be the epitome of adaptation with the dominance of the
cars of tomorrow (now cars of today!), there is little doubt that the
team is still the number one force in NASCAR; however, Gordon’s style is
different from Jimmie. Even though they are teammates, Johnson goes out
for a win, he takes the risks, and he understands the consequences.
Gordon is safer. He logically calculates where he should finish and
figures out how to stay out of trouble.

But being safe is not enough
anymore. Perhaps this year we will see a little more risk and racing
out of Gordon. Knowing what he knows now, I bet that Gordon will be one
to reckon with off AND on the racetrack next year. No more mister nice
guy for Gordon.