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For Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, it's wait-till-next-year.....

  Mark Martin, the only man still with any shot at beating Jimmie Johnson for the title (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   So it's the end of the line for Jeff Gordon…and all but the end of the line for Mark Martin.
   They had teammate Jimmie Johnson boxed in, but let him escape.
   And Johnson not only rebounded from that Texas disaster but ripped the field here, and left even his teammates in his dust.
   Martin, who now needs to win Homestead, or at least run top-three, and hope for some disaster like Texas (a 38th) to befall Johnson, seemed to sense it's the end of the campaign.
    A fourth Sunday: "We had a great run," Martin says." The guys did a fabulous job, and we had a really good race car…awesome the long runs. I really thought with that last long green flag that we were going to get up there and make it a four-car race, but our car got tight and kind of fizzled out."
    So it was a good day, really a very good day…if not for Jimmie Johnson.
   "We gave it everything we had," Martin said. "The car was a little vulnerable on restarts, and we lost some spots and had to battle back from that.
    "But our car was very, very good on the long run. In fact I really thought we could get to Jimmie with 35 to go, as good as our car was going.
    "And then it just got tight. I got up to Denny (Hamlin, who finished third) and got tight and fizzled out."
     But Martin insists no regrets: "I'm pretty proud of what we've done this season. That's really all I've got to say about it. I'm proud of what we've accomplished."
   Gordon, who should have done better at Texas last week, but didn't, finished a weak ninth here and never led a lap. While Johnson led 238 laps.
    "It wasn't a great day," Gordon said. "I thought we were going to be a lot better than that.
    "We started off the day great…and I don't know, we just faded. We just didn't have it.
   "We started off so good.
     "It seems every weekend we start off great….and I don't know what it is.
     "But we lost track position, and that didn't help. And we weren't good on the restarts, and that didn't help.
     "We tried to make adjustments. And we tried everything. None of it seemed to help."
     It's been a frustrating two weeks for Gordon in this title battle, for the championship that he last won in 2001.
     "I was really excited in the beginning of the race," Gordon said. "I thought we were great. I thought we were really going to get up there for the win, or at least a top-three or four.
    "But, man, it just went away in a blink of an eye.
    "On the restart they took me three-wide. We just couldn't get up and get going. From that point on, it was just a struggle.
     "I wanted long green-flag runs. The yellows are what cost us, what really hurt us. We weren't bad actually on those green flag stops, but the restarts just ate us up."

   Jeff Gordon: another drive-for-five fizzles out (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Glad that this season is nearly over!

The best thing, except for JJ fans, about yesterday's race was that it allowed for plenty of nap time. Yes indeed, don't worry about falling asleep during the broadcast as when you wake up, they still will be going around pretty well single file. We all give JJ and his crew chief credit for four years of glory but isn't it getting a bit tiresome? If next year, JJ has championship #5 wrapped up by race 7 of the chase (can we rename it the 'Rick Hendrick Experience'?), NASCAR is going to have real trouble when the next TV contract comes up and will continue to battle the devastating duo of year after year dropping attendance and lack of interest in the sport.

Ya gotta admit, the JJ show

Ya gotta admit, the JJ show has gotten pretty boring, even for JJ fans at times. 4 years is definitely enough.

It's time for some rule changes. Particularly when it rains, giving the pole to the points leader every time it rains is ridiculous. JJ's got a lot of help just from this rule alone, especially last year. He practically won the title last year with the help of this rule. How about inverting the field and making the leaders work their way to the front? Makes for better racing if you ask me. Or, maybe someone could devise a formula to mix it up. The possibilities are endless at this point.

Or better yet, let's make the JJ rule. JJ has to start from the back in every race. Let's see him win number 5 now ;)

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