Jimmie Johnson Wins First Championship
The math was easy. All he had to do was finish 12th or better, and the championship would be his. That's what everyone was telling Jimmie Johnson leading up to the Ford 400 yesterday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That sounds easy to a team that has averaged a top 2 finish over the past 5 races and a top 10 finish throughout the entire 2006 season. However, if you think the championship was a lock for Jimmie going into the Ford 400, think again.
Throughout the Ford 400, Jimmie calmly overcame a number of obstacles; a piece of debris flying through his grill, near misses on 2 wrecks, and a hard charging Matt Kenseth looking to win his second championship; to post the ninth place finish that earned him his first championship. The poise that Johnson showed in the Ford 400 is indicative of how much he has mentally matured as a driver.
Jimmie displayed a high level of mental toughness through the last 10 races of the season. After starting the Chase with three consecutive poor finishes, Johnson found himself in a 165 point deficit that he was desperate to recover from. In previous years, Johnson would have crumbled from the pressure. However, in 2006, it seems Johnson has found himself.
Over the past four seasons, the #48 Lowe's team has been the team to beat. They have finished 2nd and 5th twice in the championship standings. That leaves the rest of us to ponder how many championships Jimmie Johnson can win now that he has finally matured into a champion!
Montoya off to Rocky Start in NASCAR!
Juan Pablo Montoya's entrance into NASCAR's elite Nextel Cup Series at the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway was largely overshadowed by the story of Jimmie Johnson's quest for his first championship. The former Formula One driver couldn't have asked for a better situation to make his first start. Coming from the technologically superior yet competition light F1 circuit to the highly competitive world of NASCAR would prove challenging, and the lack of press helped take off any additional pressure.
After qualifying 29th in the Ford 400, Juan spent most of his day nestled back in the mid 20's. After climbing his way up to 21st position, Montoya was taken out in a wreck with Ryan Newman. From all appearances, Newman intentionally wrecked Montoya in retaliation for a previous incident where the two drivers collided sending Newman spinning out of control.
Whether the wreck was intentional or not, Juan got his first real taste of the high speed, fender banging action NASCAR provides. Next season, Juan will run every race for Chip Ganassi in the Nextel Cup Series. There is no doubt Juan will provide tons of excitement and credibility to the sport of NASCAR. However, expect him to wreck a number of cars along the way.
Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Recap
Jimmie Johnson stole the show at Homestead in yesterday's Ford 400. While the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion never lead a lap and ran outside the top for most the day, he took care of business by finishing 9th to win his first championship.
While Jimmie Johnson was the highlight at Homestead, the other Chase drivers were gunning with nothing to lose. See how the others faired below:
1. (leader) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th and secured his first championship. Johnson overcame several obstacles including a piece of debris that flew up from the track and through his grill on his way to his 24th top ten finish of the year.
2. (- 56 points) Matt Kenseth's night was good, but not good enough. The former champion finished in 6th place, but his championship hopes were undermined by Johnson's 9th place finish.
3. (-68 points) Denny Hamlin finished his rookie season strong by finishing 3rd at Homestead. The 3rd place finish secured him a 3rd place finish in the championship. His 2006 season was strikingly similar to Carl Edwards’ rookie year. Let's hope Denny fairs better in his sophomore year that Carl did.
4. (-78 points) Kevin Harvick rang up a strong 5th place finish in the Ford 400. The 2006 Busch Series Champion tried to pull off a sweep of NASCAR's 2 top series, but came up just short.
5. (-147 points) Dale Earnhardt Jr's championship bid was nixed with a 19th place finish at Homestead. Ever the fan favorite, Earnhardt's hopes were tarnished when he qualified 14th, and never made it to the front.
6. (-219 points) Jeff Gordon was already mathematically eliminated from the championship heading into the Ford 400. However, we still expected a strong showing just out of pride. The four time champion has tons of pride, but it didn't show on Sunday. He finished 24th after running in the 30's for most of the day.
7. (-247 points) Jeff Burton started 5th, but finished 14th. There is no doubt that Burton has helped turn Richard Childress Racing around in 2006. Expect big things from him in 2007.
8. (-292 points) Kasey Kahne jumped a spot in the standings by finish 4th at Homestead. It appeared that Kahne would win his 7th race of the year after leading for much of the race. But in the chaotic closing laps, Kahne was shuffled back and could never recover.
9. (-307 points) Mark Martin finished his career at Roush Racing yesterday. One of NASCAR's longest serving veterans finished in 18th place.
10. (-448 points) Kyle Busch started the race strong, but finished poorly in 38th. The poor showing in the final 10 races of the season can't take away from his strong performances in the first 26 races. Expect Kyle to come out strong in 2007.
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