With 4 races remaining in the 2009 Chase, Jimmie Johnson holds a 118 point lead over his nearest competitor, Mark Martin.
Only 3 other drivers aside from Martin have even a slight chance of dethroning the 3-time champ (Gordon, Montoya, Stewart).
What are the chances that any of Johnson's four closest pursuers can overtake him in the last month of the Sprint Cup season?
Unfortunately for the Johnson haters, the chances are practically nil.
The four tracks remaining on the schedule are Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. If we look at each contending driver's usual
finish at those tracks, we can determine the most likely outcome of the final championship standings. Here are each driver's average
points at each track, as measured over the last three seasons. I have made some adjustment, which I will note below the table:
Juan Pablo Montoya
* I used Martin's career average at Talledega
** I added 25% more points to Montoya for each race because he alone among the top drivers has shown radical improvement lately at all tracks
(of course, he started off very weak at most tracks so he had the most room to improve)
*** JJ averages 181 points lately @ Phoenix - that is simply not realistic.
All of the above adjustments help JJ's opponents, or hurt him.
And he STILL comes out on top over the last 4 races, which combined with his current 118 point lead makes a 4-peat seem to be almost certain.
Of the remaining tracks, only Talladega stands out as an "anything can happen" track. Earlier this year, two contenders (Gordon & Martin)
were wrecked very early in the race. The same could happen to Jimmie, and if it does that 118 point cushion will vanish and we'll have a
I am not a Johnson hater and I'm not rooting for him to get airborne on lap 3 or anything like that, but a closer race would heighten
interest over the next few weeks, and a different champion at the end of the season would be a good thing for NASCAR. Dynasties have their
place in sports, but interest in Sprint Cup (look at the TV ratings and empty seats at the track) is drastically down and a new champion -
especially a sentimental favorite such as Mark Martin - would get rid of the "same guy wins every year, so why watch" mentality.
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