Jimmie Johnson continued his march to the Sprint Cup Hall of Fame Saturday night when he completed the rare sweep of both of Daytona’s Cup races in the same year. There is no better way to start your year than by winning the sport’s biggest race in the Daytona 500, but to come back in the same season and win the track’s July race makes for a great year.
Johnson became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep both the 500 and the Coke Zero 400. Joining these two drivers on the list of Daytona “sweepers” are LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Cale Yarborough (1968) and Fireball Roberts (1962).
The Daytona sweep is just another of a long list of accomplishments for Johnson, who has already won five Sprint Cup titles and is putting together the kind of season that could see him end up with his sixth title. Saturday’s win was his fourth of the season and was also his 12th top-10 finish that shows the kind of consistency that has him firmly entrenched at the top of the point standings.
Johnson should have no problem holding on to the top spot in the standings with only eight races remaining before the Chase field is set. The same can’t be said about the other nine spots as once again the finishing order at Daytona did a major reshuffling of the top 10.
Kurt Busch moved up five spots in the standings to ninth. The Front Row Motorsports driver is a maverick of sorts in the series as he drives for Front Row Motorsports that fields just the one team, but it has become one of the more competitive teams. Besides being a one-car team, the team’s shop is located in Denver far away from the Charlotte area that the majority of teams call home.
Busch is a former series champion that has a history in the sport of not being able to control his temper. His outbursts in the past have cost him two of the best rides in the sport with Roush-Fenway Racing and Penske Racing. He now seems to have his temper in check and his four top 5s and eight top 10s may make him the hottest free agent in the sport as he is operating with a one-year contract at Front Row.
Busch’s five-spot increase in the standings was not the biggest move as Tony Stewart’s secondplace finish propelled him to 10th —an increase of six spots. His move into the top 10 shakes up the race for the two wild card spots as Stewart owns a win on the season.
That leaves only Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne as drivers with a win and inside the top 20 in points. That is the magic combination to be awarded one of the two wild card spots and with Stewart now in the top 10, those two drivers are the favorites to make the Chase as they sit 11th and 12th in the point standings.
There are only eight races remaining before the Chase field is set and for all of those drivers not in the top 10 at the present time, the only way to make it in might be by winning a race. Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski are a couple of former champions, but both are outside the top 10 in the points and it could be that their only way in will be by winning races. Only one win would bring it down to point’s position, but two wins by any driver would all but guarantee a spot to run for the title over the course of the final 10 races of the season.
Daytona will always be the track that will have a bearing on the standings as the schedule reaches the halfway point. During the weekend of racing at the track, the subject of moving the race back to its traditional Fourth of July date once again began to surface. The race was always held on our nation’s birthday and it featured an early starting time as the track didn’t always have lights.
Keeping the race on the Fourth could be the beginning of something special as it would move around in the week and in the process create a little freshness in the schedule that seldom features any significant changes. Of course, any change would have to get the approval of the TV network that is covering the race and in this case it would be TNT.
Event: Camping World RV Sales
Track: New Hampshire Motor
Speedway (1.058 mile oval, 12
degrees of banking in the turns)
Date: July 14, 1 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kasey