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Jimmie Johnson! Win number seven, and now he can almost cruise at Homestead | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net


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Jimmie Johnson! Win number seven, and now he can almost cruise at Homestead

  Jimmie Johnson, with a smoky burnout in victory at Phoenix (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern


   Jimmie Johnson…
   What more can you say?
   Except, well, only 81 days till Daytona opens SpeedWeeks with that mass driver-media frenzy day.
   Johnson ripped the field here Sunday, with a machine-like performance in dominating the Phoenix 500, leading the most laps and finishing more than a second ahead of runner-up Jeff Burton – for his seventh win of the season.
   That, plus Mark Martin's fourth-place run and Jeff Gordon's ninth, means Johnson only has to finish 25th or better at Homestead, Fla., in next Sunday's tour finale, regardless of what Martin does. The win gives Johnson a 108-point lead over Martin.
    Still Johnson, after his Texas crash just seven days ago, is wary.
   "We finished 38th last week, so I can't put my guard down," Johnson insisted.
   The 500 was a battle between Johnson and Kurt Busch much of the way, until Busch faded late in the three-hour race, under warm autumn skies at Phoenix International Raceway.

   Martin needed to cut into Johnson's lead by at least 30 points, to have a decent title shot at Homestead. But he never got to the lead, and down the stretch it was Burton and Denny Hamlin outrunning Martin, who lost 35 points to Johnson.
   The most disappointed driver, other than Martin, was easily Dale Earnhardt Jr. First, on the way to the track Sunday morning his crew van crashed (no serious injuries). Then midway through the 312-miler Earnhardt lost it off the corner and triggered a 10-car crash, which took out most of those 10 and left Tony Stewart, one of the victims, fuming.
   Gordon, 112 points down to Johnson (whose official car owner happens to be Gordon himself) at the start of the day, lost more ground and goes to the final event of the 36-race season 169 points down.
   Burton – now with Todd Berrier as crew chief, with Scott Miller's promotion to competition director for Richard Childress – appears to be making up some ground on the game overall, with what he called "our best run of the season."
   However, continuing what has been a season-long mystery, Ford teams were again never in the hunt. AJ Allmendinger was the best, 13th, in a Gillett-Petty-Yates machine. Ford's Greg Biffle, typically the benchmark this season, was only 14th, and not very happy: "Same as it's been all year. There is no light at the end of the tunnel."

   So just where is Jimmie Johnson kicking everybody's butt so badly? At this flat one-mile track, Hamlin said it was off the corners: "They're really good on corner-exit.
    "When I did see Jimmie, the last 50 laps, for the first time all day, he was taking a tremendious arc into the corners. I tried to do that when I saw it. But my car wouldn't do that. So we finished where we usually finish here – third.
   "He can just accelerate off the corners that much better than the rest of the guys. That's what makes him so strong on the short tracks. We turn the center of the corner as good as they do; we just don't have as much acceleration off the corner as they do."


    Jimmie Johnson: Mr. October, Mr. November, Mr. NASCAR (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Wow! What a return after last

Wow! What a return after last week's disaster. Like him or not, the race result and how it was done is just something to admire. It has to get into the other driver's heads. To correct Hamlin, Johnson is beating them in more areas than just accelerating off the corners. To put that kind of race together after a disastrous race is just pure will power and execution, not just by Johnson but the team. Unreal.

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