Sunday, November 1, 2009

McMurray Wins at Talladega, Johnson 6th Secures Peace of Mind

By Ed Hinton

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Jimmie Johnson opened the drain NASCAR poured its season down Sunday.

Now get this for working a system and a screwball race made screwier by NASCAR's pre-race antics (I mean edicts): Riding around 30th or worse for most of the afternoon, Johnson blew the Chase to smithereens and turned the rest of it into his personal, three-city victory parade through Fort Worth, Phoenix and Miami.

All that's left to mop up is a little math. He'll likely clinch at Phoenix in two weeks, show up at Homestead-Miami only if he feels like it, then hit Las Vegas for the official celebration of his historic fourth straight championship.

This one may not be over, but it's over.

Win the Amp Energy 500? Nah. Who needed that? (For those who care, Jamie McMurray won the worse-than-usual mess at Talladega Superspeedway.)

This was better than a win for Johnson. A lot better. He finished a slick sixth and escaped Casino de Alabama decisively ahead of those who didn't -- 184 points ahead of Mark Martin, 192 up on Jeff Gordon and 239 over Juan Pablo Montoya, all of whom wrecked on the inevitable big one that came at the white flag of a green-white-checkered overtime.

"Yes, I do feel better than a race win with today's finish," Johnson confirmed when I asked him.

But there was the somewhat hollow feeling of leaving teammates Martin and Gordon so far back in the Chase due to the crapshoot circumstances that got them caught up in the big one that started just feet behind Johnson's right-rear fender.

He felt "still in shock" with elation, but, "I'm trying to keep it back because I do feel bad that the guys crashed coming to the finish. … I was really concerned for Mark, because when I looked in the mirror I saw the 5 roof number tumbling and flipping and then hitting the outside fence. I hate to see things take place that way …

"But [gaining] points on them, that's what we're here to do. I wish it would have been under fuel circumstances [which got Martin and Gordon back into the crazy areas of the draft lines], not a crash, for sure. But we'll take them."


No comments: