Listening to the media talk about Jimmie Johnson for the past few weeks has been entertaining to say the least.Ã‚Â Most of them seemed to have had him counted out of the 2011 Chase since Tony Stewart won the first race in Chicago.Ã‚Â Then along came Dover where he ran second and some of the nay sayers were still saying that he had a whole lot of work to do to catch back up in the points.Ã‚Â Well we have seen Jimmie’s work ethic for the past 5 years when it comes down to the Chase races.Ã‚Â No one understands the pressure better than the man that everyone is trying to beat.Ã‚Â After all to “Be then Man, you have to beat The Man” right?
In a race where he dominated from beginning to end, there was no doubt that his was the car to beat.Ã‚Â While the majority of the race had been long green flag runs, as the final laps wore down, so did the patience of all the drivers on the track.Ã‚Â Yellow flags began to fly, and every time they did Chad Knaus cringed over the fact that the field was going to tighten back up and give everyone on the track at Jimmie again.Ã‚Â Kasey Kahne had a push from Brad Kesolowski on the final restart and did his best to run him down, but Johnson and his 48 car just drove away like he had done all day long.
“We’ve been knocking on the door all year long,” said Johnson, after leading 197 laps. “We’ve got beat in some cases, and we’ve beat ourselves in others. … We did our part, and we’ll just see if we can do it six more times.”
Asked if he feels that a sixth consecutive Championship is in his reach he had this to say.
“We’re doing the right things,” Johnson said. “You just don’t know. Sure, this is a huge, huge step in the right direction, but in six races a lot can happen. So I don’t want to get overly excited. We’ve got to go out there and race for this thing.”
While Kasey Kahne tried to bring Red Bull at least one win in their final season in NASCAR, it was simply not in the cards at the Hollywood Casino 400.
Brad Kesolowski, who finished third, summed up the 48 car and his feeling about the race, and while happy that he managed a 3rd and a gain in the points he is still not satisfied.
“Another solid day for us thus far,” Keselowski said after the race. “Makes you kick yourself that last week at Dover we had troubles we did, because we’ve had top-five cars each and every week, [and] we’re executing very well as a group and as a team.”
“Just the things that we can control we’re doing very well. So I’m proud of everything and proud of our efforts.”
“Paul Wolfe my crew chief, used great strategy,” Keselowski said. “We did the best we could. I think Jimmie went in the garage and stole my No. 22 Nationwide car, because there was nobody going to run with him all day.
“His car was just way better. … To get a third-place out of this, if it wasn’t for that power steering last week, we’d probably have the points lead. Those failures, those troubles, they’re going to come the No. 48′s [Johnson's] way, and when it does, we’ll be there.”
Tony Stewart looked like the only car on the track that had a chance at running down Jimmie.Ã‚Â For most of the race his lap times were close and even mirroring those of the leader.Ã‚Â On the second last caution Stewart took 4 tires while a majority of the teams took only 2.Ã‚Â As the 2 tire crowd started to thin out Stewart made advances back through the field and got himself back up to 6th when the final caution came out.Ã‚Â Stewat made a mistake and slid thgouh his pit causing him to lose 8 spots.Ã‚Â He never recovered from that mistake finishing 15th behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Points leader Carl Edwards looked like junk all day long.Ã‚Â Running at times in 20th place and 2 laps down, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osbourne used their outstanding communication skills to get then changes done and used the correct strategy to get Carl back on the lead lap.Ã‚Â The late race cautions worked in their favor with wave arounds and one well timed Lucky Dog.Ã‚Â Edwards managed to finish 5th in a race where he could have done a whole lot worse.Ã‚Â A fact that was not lost on Carl in post race interviews.
“That’s the worst the car has felt in a race for a long time,” Edwards said.
“We were very fortunate — I do not deserve to be sitting up here,” Edwards said. “We’ve messed-up enough in the past that I’m proud of our ability to keep plugging along. Maybe it’s a test to see if anyone melts down …”
“It didn’t happen Sunday, even if Osborne swore after the race that ‘we were gonna be happy with a 15th, to be honest with you’ — at least I was. ”
“That’s the most we’ve done with a car that wasn’t capable of winning ever, so I’m really proud of my guys who made good adjustments,” Edwards said. “I cannot believe from the way the day started, to finish like that is spectacular.”
Crew Chief Bob Osbourne was in complete agreement.
“Dire straits, definitely, early-on in the race [and] we didn’t anticipate getting a fifth out of it, that’s for sure,” Osborne said. “But this No. 99 crew put their heads down and did all the adjustments I asked them to do, in a timely fashion. We didn’t lose a lot of spots on pit road under green, when we had to make adjustments.”
“They got all the adjustments done under yellow that I asked ‘em to do and Carl got up on the wheel and made things happen that I think most people can’t.”
“I can’t yet say if this was or wasn’t [a championship-caliber performance],” Osborne said. “But you can’t knock the performance that the boys had [Sunday]. Nobody got their heads down, nobody got frustrated — everybody stayed focused and did what had to be done to get the best finish possible and I’m very happy about that.”
Here’s how the standings look after the race in Kansas:
|9||+1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2118||-43|