He did it again. After a couple of weeks of botched restarts and simple errors, Jimmie Johnson went back to victory lane last weekend after a dominating performance in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Johnson is now back even with Matt Kenseth, as the two both have four wins each in 2013, meaning if the Chase for the Sprint Cup started today, both Kenseth and Johnson would be tied for the points lead.
Whether intentional or not, Johnson effectively took out his only possible competition with less than 10 laps to go. Johnson was racing with both Marcos Ambrose and Kasey Kahne, with Kahne to his inside. Ambrose got a run and made it three-wide, clearly getting enough to the inside of Johnson to warrant his spotter telling him he was there. But still, Johnson darted down ever so slightly into Ambrose, consequently pushing him into Kahne, who went sliding out of line into a vicious headfirst impact into the wall. Kahne went to the garage and Johnson went on to win. It was undoubtedly an accident, but with all of Johnson’s complaining this year about rule violations and the like, it’s an interesting situation nonetheless.
This week, the series makes its first visit to New Hampshire International Speedway in 2013 for the Camping World RV Sales 301. New Hampshire is a flat, one-mile track that is a favorite of many drivers on the circuit because of its emphasis on driver talent and the challenge of passing. However, it’s also known for putting on single-file, relatively uneventful races on TV, so all eyes are on the Gen 6 cars to hopefully change that.
In 2012, Kahne took home the checkered flag.
- The standings took another mix after Daytona, but the race for the wild card spots remains tight as ever. Drivers in the 11th through 20th spots are separated by only 33 points, less than a full race. Martin Truex Jr. and Kahne are currently in the two wild card spots by virtue of their wins, but a bad race for either of them coupled with a win for another driver outside the top 10, and things could change in a heartbeat.
- New Hampshire is often a fuel mileage race, so saving gas will be a priority drivers, even from the drop of the green flag.
- Likewise, tire care is another important aspect of racing at New Hampshire, and we’ll probably see another rash of blown right front tires.
Who to Watch
- Complainer or not, Jimmie Johnson is on a roll. Were it not for silly mistakes and bad restarts, he could conceivably have more than four wins. He’ll be good again Sunday.
- Last year, Denny Hamlin called his shot on Twitter for the fall race, claiming he’d win the race. He did that in dominating fashion. Hamlin isn’t mathematically eliminated from making the Chase, but his hopes are practically non-existent, so he’s racing for pride and wins right now, and he’ll have a good chance at it Sunday.
- Brad Keselowski needs a spark to ensure he makes the Chase, as he’s mired in 13th with no wins. He’ll be pushing hard to add a victory on Sunday.
Who Will Win
Kahne won here last year and will be looking to rebound from his late-race crash last week at Daytona. I think he gets to victory lane on Sunday, and hopefully, gets a chance to return the bump to teammate Johnson.
2013 Sprint Cup Standings (after 18 of 36 races)
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Clint Bowyer -49
3. Carl Edwards -71
4. Kevin Harvick -73
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -110
6. Matt Kenseth -118
7. Kyle Busch -125
8. Greg Biffle -142
9. Kurt Busch -157
10. Tony Stewart -159