Johnson will turn first trifecta since ‘70s

Published 4:35 pm Friday, October 24, 2008

The year 2008 will be remembered as a history-making year. Either the first African-American president or the first female vice-president in American history will be elected in November. The worst economic times that some of us have ever seen happened this year. The United States hit an all-time high in gasoline prices in 2008. And 2008 will produce the first three-in-a-row winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 30 years.

Yep, turn out the lights, the party is over. Jimmie Johnson sewed up the Cup championship with his win at Martinsville last Sunday. The three straight cups would mark the first time in NASCAR since Cale Yarborough pulled the trifecta in 1976-1978.Entering the race, Johnson held a 69-point lead over Jeff Burton. After dominating the field last week, he left southwest Virginia with a 149-point lead over Greg Biffle with only four races remaining in the Chase.

Johnson doesn’t need wins, doesn’t really even need top-fives or top-10s over the last four races to cruise to his third consecutive championship. If he keeps the fenders on the car and doesn’t string together a few thirty-something place finishes, he wins going away. But I would be willing to bet that he wins again before the season ends in Miami on Nov. 16.

Kinda takes the excitement away from the remaining four races, but if there’s wheels rolling, I’ll be watching.

It’s looking more and more like we might be back down to three manufacturers competing in NASCAR racing fairly soon. The signals coming from General Motors and Chrysler are pretty strong that a merger is in the works. Well, call it a merger, but GM would buy Chrysler from Cerberus Capital Management, the privately held parent company of Chrysler.

If that happens, all indications are that a deal could be announced in the next 10 days. I have a hard time seeing Dodge continue as a participant of the sport. One of the biggest reasons for a deal like this is the expense savings realized by GM via synergies between the two companies. Having two brands spending millions on race teams does not meet that objective.

Currently, the four Dodge teams are Gillette Evernham Motorsports, Ganassi Racing, Petty Enterprises and Bill Davis Racing. Of those four, the only team that will seemingly be the same next year as this year is Gillette Evernham, and the rumors are that GEM is close to making the switch to Toyota for 2009.

Ganassi, Petty and Bill Davis most likely will all either merge with others teams or be sold to other teams. Or, all three could merge with each other and form one team while driving a different brand of car.

If Dodge exits the sport, how long would it be before we see another manufacturer make its entrance? With the success of Toyota this season, how far behind is Honda? Or Nissan? Or how about Hyundai?

The 33rd and next race on the schedule is the Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is a super fast track that has produced some outstanding finishes through the years. I pick Kevin Harvick to take the checkers this Sunday at the track that produced his first Cup victory, in 2001.