Johnson, Knaus have battle on their hands for fifth straight title

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

With only three races remaining in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the points battle is tighter than it’s been in recent years. Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, former Rockford resident Chad Knaus, are clinging to a 14-point lead over second-place driver Denny Hamlin.

Kevin Harvick is also within striking distance of Johnson. Thanks to his second-place finish in last Sunday’s Amp Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Harvick is only 38 points behind the defending champion.

Jeff Gordon is in fourth place in the standings, 207 points behind Johnson. Kyle Busch rounds out the top five, 230 points off the pace.

Following last Sunday’s race at Talladega and seeing his points lead expand from 6 points to the current 14-point lead over Hamlin, Johnson stated, “It’s going to be an awesome championship battle all the way to Homestead, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Johnson and Hamlin dodged trouble Sunday and finished seventh and ninth, respectively. A disappointed Hamlin declared, “It wasn’t very fun. I didn’t get to race as hard as I’d like to at times.”

This Sunday, Nov. 7, the series moves to Fort Worth, Texas, for the AAA 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway. Nov. 14, they travel to Phoenix for the Kobalt Tools 500, and the season comes to a close Nov. 21 with the running of the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

I don’t think it’s that far-fetched to go out on a limb and predict that Johnson will win his fifth straight championship. But, with the three races that are remaining and as tight as the battle is this year, there is still plenty of good racing left. Johnson won’t have the luxury of just coasting home to another championship. He’s going to have to be a big part of the battle.

From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue

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