Crunching numbers after Talladega

November, 3, 2009

As Randy LaJoie said on Sunday night's postrace edition of "NASCAR Now" ... it's over, print the T-shirts.

I wish I could get just a sip of that magical elixir Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are taking huge gulps of. With about 20 laps to go on Sunday at Talladega, I noticed that the points were suddenly getting a little more competitive with Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon racing for the win while Jimmie Johnson was in danger of losing the draft.

Then Johnson gets some fuel, since he's not risking much track position, enough to last him as cars in front of him ran out of fuel or had to pit to make it through the green-white-checkered finish. Then he gets a good restart, as he's apt to do, and suddenly they start wrecking behind him, including his two teammates and closest competitors in the points race. In fact, the last wreck took out Scott Speed, the driver running directly behind No. 48.

Golden horseshoes, rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers. Jimmie Johnson laughs at your good-luck charms. The man must be living clean.

Although even I, the ultimate optimist, feel that we can now engrave "Jimmie Johnso" on the championship trophy, and you can start on the N. So, what are we racing for?

I'll tell you what, you race to win. Regardless of the points situation, there are 43 drivers out there every weekend who want to win. And some of them, like Jamie McMurray on Sunday, need a win to help them get a ride next year, or get some sponsorship assistance.

Let's not forget some of the old days of NASCAR, when drivers raced more for the race-to-race paycheck, and not so much for the season championship. Racing for wins, old-school style. Nice.

But for now, let's look back at the action from Talladega, since there was no shortage of it. Even in the early-race portion when the drivers got single file, you knew it wouldn't stay like that. It did give some of us a chance to unclench our jaws.

Out of the blue

Jimmie Johnson, as I mentioned earlier, gave us a glimmer of hope in the Chase when we got to 10 or so laps to go, and he was still at the tail end of the draft, looking for somebody to give him a push to the front.

The points crunched up, those of us looking for a little more action in the points got that look in their eyes ... and then this happened.

Jimmie Johnson's final 10 laps at Talladega
Lap 182 -- 25th
Lap 183 -- 29th
Lap 184 -- 22nd
Lap 185 -- 22nd
Lap 186 -- 21st
Lap 187 -- 16th
Lap 188 -- 11th
Lap 189 -- 9th
Lap 190 -- 6th
Lap 191 -- 6th

Yeah, that's a fine-line graph if you're into graphs. I enjoy a good graph, especially pie charts. Mmm ... pie.

Trivia break: Looking to mount a challenge next week at Texas, which driver has the best all-time average finish at Texas?


Restrictor-plate races were never the strong suit over at Roush Fenway Racing, but hold that thought!

The team that gave you just two restrictor-plate race wins in their first 15 seasons in business was suddenly the only team to win multiple restrictor-plate races this season. Here's the full list of restrictor-plate wins for RFR.

Cup restrictor-plate wins for Roush Fenway Racing
Year -- Driver -- Track
2009 -- Jamie McMurray -- Talladega
2009 -- Matt Kenseth -- Daytona
2007 -- Jamie McMurray -- Daytona
2003 -- Greg Biffle -- Daytona
1997 -- Mark Martin -- Talladega
1995 -- Mark Martin -- Talladega

That's right, McMurray, on his way out, tied for the team lead. RFR got its elusive Daytona 500 victory this year, and now there's only two active Cup Series tracks where the team's never won. That's Chicago and another prestigious track, Indianapolis.

Trivia break: Who had RFR's best finish at Indianapolis?

Loose ends

We're all about talking championships and wins at the Worldwide Leader, but you fans come to my blog looking for a little more, so I wanted to give some credit where it was due for Sunday's race.

First, a shoutout goes to Jeff Burton, for getting his first top-5 finish since Richmond back in May.

How about Michael Waltrip, with just a trio of races remaining before he cuts back to a part-time schedule? He equaled his season-best finish of seventh, coming in the Daytona 500.

Over to Brad Keselowski, who was eighth. This year in both the Cup and Nationwide series, he's finished first, eighth and ninth in three Talladega races.

And I love the underdogs. Bobby Labonte gave TRG Motorsports their first top-10 finish. Meanwhile, Robert Richardson Jr. gave Tommy Baldwin Racing its best all-time finish with an 18th in his first career Cup Series start.

Trivia break: There were 26 leaders in Sunday's race, tied for second-most all-time. What's the Cup Series record for leaders in a race?

Trivia break answers

(1) Jimmie Johnson has the best all-time average finish at Texas, with an 8.5 mark.

(2) RFR drivers have finished second at Indy four times, twice by Matt Kenseth, and once apiece for Mark Martin and Carl Edwards.

(3) There were 28 leaders at last year's fall Talladega race. Would you believe Jimmie Johnson wasn't one of the 26 who led on Sunday? Believe it.



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