Long ride to Loudon favors Johnson

Jun 26, 2007 7:31 AM

This week the Cup Series travels in what is likely their longest road trip of the season.

When the haulers left Sonoma Sunday night, they set on a cross country trip for their home bases in Charlotte, about 2,800 miles. On Thursday, they’ll load the trucks again in Charlotte and set sail 900 miles northward to Loudon, New Hampshire and the eighth Car of Tomorrow race this season.

Wasn’t one of the advantages of the COT that the teams didn’t have to go back to the shops after each race? The idea was that it’ll be the same chassis for each race with some mild tinkering done to get it ready for each and every track alike.

Jeff Gordon has been the best thus far from the results of seven COT races. He still remains the only driver to have finished in the top 10 of every COT race. Denny Hamlin is next best in average finishes with a solid run in each race followed by Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Many are starting to wonder just how good the Hendrick "dynamic duo" are after last week’s failed inspection prior to last Friday’s qualifying. We’re starting to hear many detractors claim that the edge Gordon and Johnson have is due to cheating. That’s such a harsh word. I like the word "creative" much better. All the testing and time spent taking the COT to its limits gave the Hendrick team a chance to do some different things that made them faster.

We must be fair to the Hendrick team because they did pass each COT inspection at all six of the other tracks they ran on. For the road race, which is set up completely different in weight placement and suspension, the two teams got a little bit too creative.

NASCAR didn’t like the way the two teams had made a few adjustments which in turn would have given Gordon and Johnson an advantage on the track. We can likely expect some season points to be taken away from both Johnson and Gordon.

Beyond the fines that will be placed, how does the entire deal map out for this week’s COT race in Loudon? We say they passed all the COT tests at the other tracks, but maybe NASCAR never saw what they were doing to give them an edge. Maybe they have been doing it the whole time.

How does that play into all the data and knowledge we have already gathered for this race? Who do you take? Do you stay conservative and take Gordon or Johnson to win this week at a modest price or do go bold for another 25/1 on Martin Truex Jr like he did at Dover a few weeks ago?

What we do know for sure is that the crew chiefs that were successful at Richmond and Phoenix will bring those same chassis’ and set-up notes to New Hampshire. The three tracks look completely different, but because of the slight banking and distances, they run very similar.

If we look at the figures from those two COT races earlier this year, we have Gordon and Johnson each getting wins with a fourth in the other race. Denny Hamlin finished third in both races. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart each had a second place finish and a top 10 finish in the other.

So there it is! Why go on about how maybe Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch have a possible shot at joining Truex Jr as a long shot to win? The Childress cars are all 15/1. What’s wrong with that? Kevin Harvick was the Richmond, Phoenix, and New Hampshire man last season, so why can’t he do it again?

Jeff Burton has forever been strong on those three tracks. Why can’t Clint Bowyer join the first time winner’s club with Truex Jr, Mears, and Montoya? It’s happened at three of the last five races so it can happen again, right?

I’d love to believe it, but the Gibbs and Hendrick cars are just a notch above the rest. It would take some fuel mileage issues to de-rail those 5.

ROBERTS TOP 5

at LOUDON

1.

#11

Denny Hamlin

7/1

2.

#5

Kyle Busch

11/1

3.

#24

Jeff Gordon

5/1

4.

#48

J. Johnson

4/1

5.

#20

Tony Stewart

7/1

EVENTS

WINS

TOP 10s

21

12

59 of 105

Bristol

Martinsville

Phoenix

Richmond

Darlington

Dover

Sonoma

AVG

CHEVROLET COT runs

 

 

 

 

JIMMIE JOHNSON

16

1

4

1

3

15

17

8.1

JEFF GORDON

3

2

1

4

1

9

7

3.9

KYLE BUSCH

1

4

7

2

37

17

8

10.9

CASEY MEARS

16

42

37

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