Monday, October 13, 2008

Burton seizes the night

A smile curled upon my lips as NASCAR’s good guy, Jeff Burton, pulled away from Jimmie Johnson and left Kasey Kahne in the dust. In today’s Sprint Cup, angry exchanges or flashy celebrations are the norm. That’s a lot of fun, but it was even better to watch Burton tote that checkered flag while driving the Polish victory lap made famous by Alan Kulwicki, the long-forgotten 1992 Winton Cup Champion. Moments later I received a text message from a friend offering the same sentiment: “Seeing J Burton win makes me smile.”

Regardless of the sappy sentiments, Burton’s win is significant in that it brings him within striking of the points leader Johnson. He’s now only 69 points back and appears to one of three drivers with a shot at the title. What was most striking about the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s on Saturday night was how many Chase drivers had problems. Carl Edwards came in leading, but had a myriad of problems and dropped to fourth. And the championship hopes for Dale Earnhardt conclusively faded after another poor finish.

So barring a miracle, the championship will come down to Johnson, Burton and Greg Biffle. Edwards and Clint Bowyer each have an outside chance, but they better turn things around now. And for Burton, that’s a better shot than he would’ve had in the previous points format. Here’s what the standings would look like under the pre-2004 format.

Standings after Charlotte

Jimmie Johnson – 4414 (Leader)
Kyle Busch – 4350 (-64)
Carl Edwards – 4331 (-83)
Jeff Burton - 4183 (-231)
Greg Biffle – 4072 (-342)
Dale Earnhardt – 4002 (-412)
Kevin Harvick – 3954 (-460)
Tony Stewart – 3935 (-479)
Jeff Gordon – 3854 (-560)
Clint Bowyer – 3799 (-615)
Denny Hamlin – 3723 (-691)
Matt Kenseth – 3641 (-773)

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