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Another Jimmie Johnson win....and his rivals are beyond frustration with his 3-for-5 start

 Deja vu all over again? Crew chief Chad Knaus (L) and Jimmie Johnson and wife Chandra (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Frustration? You could sense it, hear it, even see it in the eyes of their rivals, after yet another Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus tour victory.
   Once again Johnson didn't have the best car in the field; that was Kurt Busch's. And Johnson was stuck sixth for the final restart with 10 laps to go.
   But Johnson had the outside line, the preferred lane, and he made the most of it, with hard charge to the lead in just three laps. And he was pulling away at the finish. "I definitely know being in the outside lane was helpful," Johnson said. "Matt Kenseth didn't get a good restart, and I made some aggressive moves....and when the money was on the line we had things go our way."
    The win was Johnson's first at Bristol Motor Speedway, in his ninth season on the Sprint Cup tour.
    And he heads this week to Martinsville Speedway, a track he's all-but owned the last few years. A win at Martinsville, highly likely, would give Johnson and Knaus four wins in the year's first six events.
   Winning this one was clearly emotional for Johnson. "Man, when a track kicks your butt for so long, and you finally win at it, that's an amazing feeling," Johnson said.
     Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, said a rival came up after the win and told him "Man, your bucket's almost full.
    "Well, we dump it out every week and start all over again."
   Car owner Rick Hendrick said he could well understand Busch's frustration: "Kurt has been most complementary of Jimmie, and I can understand his frustration here. I plan to call him and congratulate him on his run here."
     "We were solid all day, we just got beat at the end on 'the luck of the draw' on restarts," Busch said. "That's what our sport is about -- luck on which lane is going to go.
    "I'd rather lose to any of the 41 cars out there than the 48 (Johnson). I thought we had them beat.
   "These are tough to lose. This is a track I feel competitive on; we definitely had a car to beat. We just ended up in the wrong lane for that last restart.
     "I poured my heart out trying to beat Jimmie....and then to lose....that's what is upsetting.
    "When luck shines your way, it shines your way. It's tough to overcome."


  Tony Stewart: two tires, or four? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Tony Stewart managed to hold off Busch for second. Stewart, who has been in a foul mood the last few weeks for some reason, had little to say afterward the final 10-lap sprint: "We were too loose the run before that, and couldn't get the track position....so he (crew chief Darien Grubb) left it to me (to make the call, two tires or four, Stewart opting for two).
   "Whether I made the right call or not, I don't know.
   "We got the thing tightened up a bit to where we could charge at the end, but it was hard."
    For the final restart, on lap 491 of 500, the Jack Roush trio of Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards – all gambling on only taking two tires, instead of four, like Johnson and Busch – held the front.
    But none of them could hold on.
    Biffle, who finished fourth, didn't question the two-tire call: "I think it was the right one. We could go back and do it over again with four and see what that does; but we were really, really fast. 
    "I was just too loose.  If the car had been driving like it normally did, I think I could have held them off, I really do.
    "But I was just so loose I couldn't put the power down; the back end was sliding."
    Biffle had been involved in a mid-race incident with Mark Martin that triggered a 13-car melee that took out strong contenders like Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya. Martin, with rain looming, made a bid to pass Biffle on the outside on lap 343, but Biffle shut the door, and Martin tagged the wall. As Martin was trying to limp back to pit road Marcos Ambrose plowed into Jeff Gordon, making quite a mess.
   "I owe an apology to Mark," Biffle said. "It sounds stupid because everybody makes an excuse, but I was having trouble with my radio. That whole run I didn't have a radio, and I didn't know he was on the outside of me, and I ran him into the fence."
   "I needed to go," Martin said. "It was time for me to go. I was going around the outside of him, and he just came up. I was on the brakes, but we were hung together.
   "I really felt we had a car that could win (he was battling for fourth at the time). Mistakes happen...but that is a real bad deal for us."
   The 35th dropped Martin to 16th in the standings.


   Matt Kenseth, the 2003 tour champ, now within a point of the season lead (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Kenseth wound up one of the day's big winners, another plus for new crew chief Todd Parrott, whose team is now second in the standings, just one point behind Kevin Harvick, who suffered through another ragged day, though salvaging 11th.
    "My car just would not go on restarts," Kenseth said.  "So I would have rather had the track position and take my chances.  I'm really happy with how we finished. Todd did the right thing by getting us the track position, and we just held on to get what we could.
    "So far this year we've been able to find ways to get good finishes even when we haven't performed good."
    Teammate Edwards, who has had a rough few weeks, after the Atlanta controversy, raced side by side with nemesis Brad Keselowski, and both men gave each other plenty of room. Keselowski ran top-five much of the day, but wound up 13th. Edwards, on the other hand, didn't run well much of the race, or at least ran fitfully, but pulled out a sixth.
    "It was pretty cool there at the end to have the top-three guys in Fords," Edwards said. "I thought we were going to be fighting for the win.
    "But Jimmie got in there with four tires and shook it all up and ended up getting the win.
     "That's the best we ran all day was sixth, so that's pretty decent."
    And Keselowski? He drove a heady race.
   "We did what we had to do, and that was run hard, run smart, and bring the car home in one piece," said Keselowski. "We did a great job on pit road and on the track. We got the most we could out of our race car. We had a lot of fight in our team."
    Jay Guy, his crew chief, made a two-tire gamble early that gave Keselowski good track position for the rest of the race. "Taking two tires isn't something you want to do, but we had to roll the dice to gain track position," Keselowski said.
   "Then we got a yellow flag when we needed it, that got us track position up front."
    It was all the more remarkable consider the race was only Keselowski's 22nd on the Cup tour...and it was his first time at Bristol in a car-of-tomorrow: "We ran up front, we were competitive, I got a decent finish out of it... and brought our car home in one piece. It feels great."

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   Greg Biffle: a gambling pit stop put him in the lead for the final restart (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Simply put him into the wall

Simply put him into the wall after all that will cost you what three weeks of you better be on your best behavior or else, and a talking to.

rivals beyond frustration?

rivals beyond frustration? Well so are most anyone who's a fan of another driver who's not Johnson. Can you say bored now?

Your other article - change the name of the series to Johnson racing may just sum up the reason why fans aren't watching on TV, either.

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