After the Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, Carl Edwards performed his signature back flip into the infield grass and celebrated in Victory Lane. He celebrated, that is, until he got the news. Jimmie Johnson finished 2nd.
A jubilant Carl Edwards was visibly deflated when he was informed during the initial post race interview on ABC that Jimmie Johnson, who at one point was a lap down after being penalized for speeding on pit road, had come charging back during the final 9 laps, in an amazing performance which was definitely the highlight of the race. On several message boards that I scanned after the race, it was difficult to tell who had won the race. One person on my board, who had not actually seen the race, scanned another board and posted that Jimmie had won again. When I replied that Carl had won, she was surprised. That surprise is understandable, because today, hardly anyone is talking about Carl Edwards. They're all talking about Jimmie Johnson, even though he finished 2nd.
It's hard not to be impressed by Jimmie Johnson during the 2nd half of the 2008 season. I'm not a Johnson fan, but I can appreciate that what looked to be at the outset a down year for the 48 team has become a runaway freight train to another championship. Not that it's over, mind you, but it's going to take practically a miracle for anyone but the 48 team to win the Cup in 2008.
What's great for the 48 team and Jimmie Johnson fans is probably not so good for NASCAR as a whole. ABC could not disguise the many empty seats at Atlanta yesterday. Dale Earnhardt Jr., in a pre-race TV interview even mentioned that he wished more fans would buy tickets to come see the race at Atlanta. Many of the empty seats can certainly be blamed on the recent financial upheaval on Wall Street and elsewhere, and what I consider to be outrageously high ticket prices. I do feel, however, that part of the lack of attendance can be blamed on what has become a lopsided Chase for the Cup. Who wants to spend all that money to see the same guys win every week? As much as I love to go to Atlanta, I'm glad I didn't go this year. In the early part of the season, it was all Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Now during the Chase, it's been all Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. It's strange, isn't it, that though Carl Edwards has won races all during the year, it looks like he's going to come up short in his championship hopes. That all leads to another subject though, and I hope to address that one later.
All in all, I could have skipped yesterday's race except for the final 9 laps. Jimmie Johnson's charge through the field was indeed amazing. He and several other drivers had new tires, but to pass that many cars in so few laps was really something to see. The race had it's other moments too, but nobody's going to remember them.
Oh yes, congratulations to Jimmie, er, I mean Carl Edwards on your win at Atlanta.