Motorsports: Jimmie Johnson enters chase for sixth title in second place

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

The first Race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was supposed to happen last Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. Because of rain, that didn’t happen. NASCAR had to postpone the race until 11 a.m., Monday, Sept. 19. Results from that race were unavailable at press time.

This is the second time in three weeks a Cup race wasn’t run on its appointed day. The Sept. 4 event at Atlanta Motor Speedway was postponed from Sunday to the following Tuesday when the remnants of tropical storm Lee stormed through the Southeast.

Chase qualifiers earned five of the top six spots during Saturday’s qualifying session. In addition to Matt Kenseth on the pole, Kurt Busch starts third, Ryan Newman fourth, Carl Edwards fifth and Brad Keselowski sixth.

The only exception in the top six is Paul Menard, who qualified second.

The rest of the Chase drivers will start as follows: Kyle Busch ninth, Jimmie Johnson 12th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 19th, Jeff Gordon 23rd, Tony Stewart 26th, Denny Hamlin 27th and Kevin Harvick 30th.

Johnson and his crew chief, Rockford native, Chad Knaus will be trying for their sixth consecutive championship. Johnson, who turned 36 years old last Saturday, Sept. 17, is 9 points behind series leader Kyle Busch.

Johnson has only one victory so far this season, and that came back on April 17 at the Talladega Motor Speedway. In nine starts at Chicagoland Speedway, Johnson finished second twice (2004 and 2008), but has never won there. Last year, he started second and wound up finishing 25th.

If he hopes to get off to a good start for his sixth consecutive title, he’ll have to do better than that.

The series moves to Louden, N.H., for the Sylvania 300 this Sunday (Sept. 25). The green flag will fly at 1 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the Sept. 21-27, 2011, issue

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