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Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson ready for the challenge to win fourth consecutive Cup title

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 31, 2009

Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson is no stranger to enjoying historic marks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Last season he tied Cale Yarborough‘s mark of three consecutive Cup championships. He’s now won back-to-back races at famed Indianapolis Speedway. And he’s chasing a record of his own – a fourth consecutive title.

With his win at the Brickyard, Johnson moved to second in the standings. He also earned his third win of the season, which would place him no worse than second in the realigned standings once the Chase For The Sprint Cup begins in six weeks. Mark Martin leads the series with four wins and Kyle Busch also has three.

As Johnson looks over his past four seasons, he admits that even he is a little awed by his team’s level of success. He won five races en route to his first championship in 2006, 10 in his 2007 title run and seven last year.

This season, he’s won at Martinsville Speedway, Dover International Speedway and now Indy.

Is even he sometimes surprised by his success?

“In some ways I am shocked and surprised,” Johnson said. “I know all the work that goes into it.  On that front, we work very hard to be competitive. But it still surprises me. When I look at the 99 [of Carl Edwards], the 18 [of Kyle Busch], different teams that have been very strong in certain years, then things kind of slow down for whatever reason, it’s really tough to tell why or what it is. Our guys work really hard. I can’t explain it. But I’m glad it’s working for us like this. We’ll just keep working hard and hopefully it will stick around.”

With his Indy win, Johnson moved up in the standings to second behind Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart, who leads the standings by 192 points.

Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led team have gained consistency and momentum in recent weeks. Johnson has five consecutive top-10 finishes, seven in the last eight races and 15 overall.

His recent surge has revived championship talk about the team. Asked if he could win a fourth consecutive title, Johnson admitted that winning at Indy certainly helped to boost the team’s confidence with the with Chase just six races away.

“The victory this last weekend is helping that a lot,” Johnson said. “We’ve been so close to winning races, but there’s nothing better than pulling into victory lane and closing the deal.  I look at Michigan. I look at Pocono. I look at Sears Point. New Hampshire we led the most laps.  Just been a lot of races where we’ve been fast. I feel very good about what’s been going on.

“But to close the deal and to win a race just takes the confidence to the next level for the race team. It puts at ease some of the different emotions that exist inside everyone’s heads on our race team. We have a confidence and presence that we know we can do this.”

Still, he knows there’s a lot left this season. There are six more races before the Chase begins, then 10 through which the champion is determined.

Right now, though, Johnson is looking like one of the top contenders down the road.

“There’s still a lot of racing between now and the Chase and then when the Chase starts it’s a long 10 weeks,” he said. “I know we’ve got a lot of challenges ahead. But I feel very good about where we’re at. We’ll use the momentum from this win to get our heads right and be prepared for the Chase.”

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TRY, TRY AGAIN! DUMBASS!

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 31, 2009

Dale Earnhardt Jr. liked how things were going at the Brickyard after a solid qualifying run and then racing in the top 10 most of Sunday. Then a blown engine wrecked it all ... again.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. liked how things were going at the Brickyard after a solid qualifying run and then racing in the top 10 most of Sunday. Then a blown engine wrecked it all ... again.

Another chance to regroup after solid start fizzles in Indianapolis

Selected comments from Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s postrace interviews at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Q: Dale, Mark Martin is 50. Bill Elliott is 53. That’s a long time for you. Can you foresee yourself at that age to be doing the things these guys are doing? (Saturday, July 25)

A: It’s different for everybody, I think. I really don’t know how you gauge the deterioration of talent in a racecar driver. It’s not as easy to do that as it is, I guess, in stick-and-ball sports where you can see when somebody’s lost a step or their batting average goes down or whatever.

You know, when I see Mark and Bill doing what they do, [it] doesn’t surprise me individually. Mark has always taken great care of himself. He’s always been one of the fastest guys. Bill’s the same way. I mean, Bill’s in excellent health, and he’s always been that way. I think a lot of it has to do with your ability to handle the heat and the endurance of the races themselves.

Obviously, anybody can come out here in a good, fast car and run a quick lap. Anybody can come out and do one or two or a handful of good laps. But those guys still run well and will continue to run well because their bodies can handle the heat and the endurance of the entire race.

I don’t think age is really a factor. It’s really what kind of shape you’re in, you know, to be able to do it.

Q: On the failed engine, you said on the radio you thought it was your fault. How so? (Sunday, July 26)

A: Well, just as the motor broke coming out of the pits under acceleration, so I just assume that the motor broke, could be in first gear leaving the pit stall; I could have possibly over-revved it a little bit or something like that. But I had a great engine and we don’t ever break them. But we ran good.

[We were] competitive today and we were making some gains and kind of adjusting back and forth trying to get the thing right; getting it too tight and getting it too loose. I was pretty happy with it at the end of that last run. We were just in our window to make it to the end and pitting early, and expecting NASCAR was going to throw a couple more cautions before the end of the race, but we felt like we were in good shape to get a good finish. I just hate it for my guys. They’ve been working really hard. This is a brand new car and we’re going to take it to Pocono and keep working at it.”

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Brickyard a Building Block toward Championship

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

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What a difference three years make.

When Jimmie Johnson headed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006, all the questions were about why he fared so poorly at the famous venue – as well about when he thought he would be able to break through and win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Fast forward to 2009, and the questions are of a highly different nature heading into the latest stock-car race at Indy.

Johnson now is the three-time defending champion in the Cup series. He’s also won two of the last three times he’s raced in his No. 48 Lowe’s Impala SS at the hallowed Brickyard.

“This track has been so feast or famine for us,” Johnson said. “We’ve either won or been on fire, wrecked.”

Typically, his wins in 2006 and in 2008 at Indy were sandwiched around a fiery wreck in 2007 that relegated him to at 39th-place finish. Other than his two victories, he’s finished in the top 10 only one other time there – that coming in his rookie season in 2002 when he started 37th and finished ninth, followed by finishes of 18th, 36th and 38th in the next three years before he registered his breakthrough win at the track in 2006.

And make no mistake. That was indeed a breakthrough victory. Many believe it helped vault Johnson to his first championship, which in turn launched him on a string of championships that has been matched only one other time in NASCAR history – when Cale Yarborough won three titles in a row from 1976 through 1978.

“I feel very fortunate to have won on many of the major tracks we compete on and in many of  the major events in our series,” Johnson said. “At the time to overcome such a difficult track for the 48 team meant a lot to us, gave us a lot of hope and belief in overcoming the hurdle to win a championship. It had been right there in front of us, but we kept missing it. It really set the pace for us to go on and have good things take place.

“It also was really rewarding to really have struggled at a track and come back and finally beat it, after it had beaten us so many times. We won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard in the same year, then went on to win the championship. So it was extremely special.”

This year Johnson hopes to use Indy as a springboard to an even loftier place in stock-car racing annals. He is attempting to become the only Cup driver ever to win four championships in a row.

When it comes to chasing history, there is no better place to do it than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports, which fields Johnson’s formidable car.

“Every win is special, but there’s definitely something unique about Indy,” Hendrick said. “The track has so much history, and you can just feel it when you walk in. There are certain places that are always going to be special, and that’s one of them.”

As special and as important as Johnson’s first victory was at Indy in 2006, Hendrick said he believes that last year’s win in an event marred by tire problems for all competitors was at least as pivotal in helping the No. 48 team ultimately complete another run to the points championship.

Indypitroad (Small)

“Any victory is going to be big in building confidence and momentum,” Hendrick said.

“I think that win last year was important because the 48 team was running well but hadn’t won a race in a while. So Indy helped us build some steam as we went into the Chase (for the Sprint Cup championship).”

Hendrick added that he’s not surprised at all that Johnson and his team have turned around their fortunes at a track that once seemed to have their number – and not in a good way. He also made it a point to credit crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the No. 48 team for Johnson’s success as a driver.

Asked why he thinks Johnson has been so good lately at the Brickyard, Hendrick replied: “For the same reasons he’s good at other places. Jimmie’s one of the smartest drivers I’ve ever seen. He gives exceptional feedback and has a great feel for the chassis. He’s a real technician in the car, and that’s to his advantage everywhere we race.

“But it’s not just Jimmie. You can’t discount how important Chad and the crew are. Chad has done an unbelievable job building that team, and they really have the total package: great driver, crew chief, team and car. That’s tough to beat.”

That’s tough to beat most anywhere on the Sprint Cup circuit. But in recent years, it has become even tougher for others to contend with at Indy. Johnson still maintains that it all changed with the victory in 2006.

“There are so many positives that came from it — the attitude the team had, the momentum it gave us, that sense of feeling like we beat something that had been beating us,” Johnson said.

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MY WORD

Now with his third win at the Brickyard and making NASCAR History by being the first driver to win it Back 2 Back you can bet that, that drive and confidence is even stronger than before. Watch out I see, feel, and smell a Fourth (4- Peat) Consecutive Championship coming!

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Johnson Hopes for Good Things in Pocono for Team 48

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

Less than a week after making history as the only driver to win back-to-back NASCAR events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson must now turn his focus to the next track – 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway.

Johnson has 15 starts at the Long Pond, Pa. venue and has posted two wins, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. With a little momentum behind the Lowe’s team, Johnson believes they keep things going in the right direction.

“Pocono’s been tough on us since we won in 2004,” said Johnson. “We’ve been getting closer to winning a race again though.  I think the spring race we were in contention and running second at the end, ran out of gas.  So I’m excited coming off of Indy.  Those tracks are somewhat similar.  We’ll see how it works.”

But despite the similarities between Indianapolis and Pocono, Johnson confesses he and crew chief Chad Knaus will hold on to their race-winning Kobalt Tools Impala that visited Victory Lane last weekend.

“We’re going to hang on to that car and use it in the Chase,” said Johnson. “It worked out where it debuted at Indy.  We know it’s a good car.  We’re going to hang on to it for the Chase.”

Sunday’s 160-lap, 400-mile race will be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

RACE NOTES
Pocono Raceway

  • Johnson has made 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono Raceway, posting two wins, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
  • The three-time champion has completed 99.7% (2876 of 2885) of competition laps at the 2.5-mile tri-oval and has led 399.
  • Johnson has an average start and finish of 7.1 and 9.6.

Chassis

  • Johnson will pilot chassis No. 534 in Sunday’s race. He last drove it to a seventh-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June.
  • The backup chassis, No. 504, was last driven to a 13th-place result at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May.
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CONGRATULATIONS JIMMIE

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

ON YOUR BACK TO BACK ALLSTATE BRICKYARD 400!

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Johnson's 2009 Brickyard 400 burnout

Jimmie kissing the bricks 2009Allstate 400Kissing the Bricks VictoryIndianapolis Motor Speedway

JJ Brickyard 400 2009JJ's 43rd career winNASCAR Indianapolis Auto Racing2009 AllstateWin_160x600

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Chad Knaus named Wypall crew chief for Indianapolis race

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

NASCAR HOMESTEAD AUTO RACING

Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, has been named the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Race for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Johnson and the No. 48 team started the race in 16th position and moved into the top five before the first green-flag stop on lap 36. Johnson and Knaus worked on their car throughout the race and took the lead on a lap-137 restart and never relinquished it.

“Chad did some great things to the race car to start the race,” Johnson said. “I knew within about two turns that we were going to be very competitive today. Then the adjustments throughout the day were exactly what we needed.”

Bob Osborne, crew chief for Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards, Todd Berrier, crew chief for Richard Childress Racing’s Casey Mearsand Fox/Speed analyst Jeff Hammond, along with representatives from the sponsor, serve as the panel for the challenge. In addition to the $1,000 check, the winning crew chief will receive signage on his pit box the following week. The crew chief with the most weekly wins will be honored as the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Year and will be presented a $20,000 check at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Juan “Hot Sauce” Montoya vs. NASCAR and their Conspiracy

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 28, 2009

I have toured the comments sections of racing websites and I’m here to tell you many, many fans have gone Jim Garrison (if you don’t know the significance of this reference and or person Wikipedia him) over Sunday’s Brickyard race vis a vis Juan Pablo Montoya.

I have seen the idiotic blogs coming from the ill tempered NASCAR Fans, its range knows no bounds. Their saying NASCAR screwed the Colombian driver by slapping him with a late-race speeding penalty which probably cost him the victory.

I have seen/read everything from conspiracies to you guessed it racism and everything in between. So before I tear these apart and or debunk them I decided to take this one step further, let’s have some fun. Here is what really happened at the Allstate Brickyard 400.

My Conspiracy List

NASCAR favors any driver that is or was a champion; therefore all other drivers are not even qualified to run on the same track.

I watched as several cars were getting in the way of my driver, therefore NASCAR allowed them to try and deter my driver (Jimmie Johnson) from winning.

I also watched as each Driver that was announced shake the hand of the Sprint Girl, she was actually slipping them some magic beans that made Jimmie and his team win.

The flag man was holding way too many flags, and was waving them in an un-ordinary fashion, which created chaos with in the other teams, that did not win.

Someone slipped a mickey into Jr.‘s gas tank, which made his engine blow up.

All the fans actually had Mark Martin on a bungy cord which they only gave him just enough cord to almost win.

If Martin was still driving the Viagra car, he might have gotten his front end acrosss the line before Jimmie.

24+24 equals 48…that’s it! Johnson has two Jeff Gordon’s racing with him, Montoya had only two 21`s

NASCAR lowered the speed on pit row for Juan because he was too good.

Jr took a dive, blew his motor so that he could put oil on the track….which Juan picked up on his tires , thus preventing him from catching back up and winning instead of Jimmie, who just happens to be Jr’s team mate! JR probably got quite the little bonus for that “DIVERSION”

If you take the letters that spell INDIANAPOLIS you have: Indian OIL PS. And everybody knows that PS is short for Pit Strategy. The oil was at the entrance to pit road! See! See! I knew it! Way to go JR, you clever boy helping Jimmie win.

The announcers were in on it too; they had to have something to do with it. Rusty Wallace even said it was Jr’s oil on Juan’s tires! UH OH! Rusty almost blew it for Rick! Gees, Rusty hasn’t anybody told you loose lips sink ships, button it next time.

The most incredible part nobody caught was that IMS was set up with dual grandstands to confuse the young guns. They couldn’t find their pits or knew which way to turn.

FACT: anybody can make up incredible crap, I just did it. It doesn’t make it true. ALL YOU CONSPIRACY THEORY THINKING FANS….NO MORE SOUP FOR YOU!!!!

Now let’s get down to real business shall we and pick apart some items I will show that fans did write.

Here’s our first little gem from one fan: I hope NASCAR sale’s drop because they screwed Juan because if it’s not Jimmie or Jeff or JR in first then they make up there own rules just so one of them can win.

My Answer:

Where have you been all year? There have been other drivers other than Hendrick drivers to win in 2009. NASCAR has only let Jimmie, JR, or Jeff win races this year. What have you been watching, JR hasn’t even won a race this year, JR hasn’t even won a race since, oh never mind.

Let’s see the following drivers have won this year: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon (2), Kyle Busch (4), Matt Kenseth (2), Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, Joey Logano, Mark Martin (4), Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart (2 + the All Star Race), Jimmie Johnson (3), and Sam Hornish Jr.

So my next question for you is, would you care to retract your statement? You really must not be too big of a Nascar fan to hope that sales drop. Come on, think about it.

Here’s our next little gem, concerning the speeding issue: NASCAR knew no one could catch JPM, so they black flagged him saying he was speeding. Juan was robbed. They don’t black flag other drivers. It’s a conspiracy. He even swore he didn’t on his wife and kids.

My Answer:

Guess what a cop can stop me on the road and say I was speeding, just because I swear on my mother, brother, sister, kids, wife, father, grandparents, my dogs, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Pope, and the bible doesn’t mean I wasn’t speeding.

You’re right, it must be a conspiracy. Let’s get the x-files pair in here to investigate. Better yet let me help dawn light on marbled head.

Maybe you forgotten how Kyle Busch, Jimmie, Harvick, Burton, Bowyer have gotten penalties this year. Along with JR and Gordon, JR earned his share at Daytona. Even Carl Edwards, hell Carl got three; in one race and two of them were back to back – One penalty issued while serving the first penalty! All were penalized, or have you conveniently forgotten those?

NASCAR checked the system and he was speeding. JPM got caught speeding in 2 segments on pit road, so take your lumps like everyone else. It was his race to win or lose and unfortunately he lost. Has anyone read his interview in Scene magazine? He claims that he is a asshole and doesn’t care if the fans or anyone else likes him. Got to question his priorities and if he knows how he actually gets paid. No fans, no dollars. I have never really cared one way or the other about him, but his own comments just solidified my opinion. Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Memo to JP: you have a 5MPH error-window… you need to fire whoever set your gear to be right-at the max-error. If you had your gear set to play by the rules and eat the second-extra that the error allowed for YOU STILL WOULD’VE HAD A 4-SECOND LEAD! Jesus your team was stupid still-maxing-out your pit-speed when you should’ve been dialed-in right-at the speed. Your team screwed you along with yourself!

One final thought before we move on. What happens to the wife an kids, since Montoya swore on them he was not speeding, maybe someone in the Latin nation could shed some light on what happens when you swear on your family and are wrong? Does he get a divorce and give the children up for adoption? I really want to know and I think we the NASCAR Nation are OWED an answer!

This next one really PISSES me off and burns my ASS!

Here’s the best gem out of all of the bullshit flying our there: I email Allstate about scam NASCAR pulled on them on Sunday and the fans….and so did a bunch of my NASCAR friends! Looks like Allstate 400 is no more; is pulling out! They have their reasons being political correct…lets see who the next suckers will be for their sponsorship will be? Maybe it was ESPN’s doing? Never heard the Allstate 400 once, does anyone remember what ESPN called it? When you steal a win from someone you better make sure your right. A lot of angry Latinos out there who saw the ugly side of NASCAR and so did Allstate Insurance! Good day Gil.

Good day indeed! This bastard out and out lied about the reason Allstate has decided not to sponsor this race any more. I have the real scoop which I have already posted, you can read it here:

Allstate not renewing Brickyard title sponsorship.

I encourage you to read that blog and find out the REAL reason and issue behind the decision. Now to tear this bastard a new asshole!

MY ANSWER!

So according to you Nascar or ESPN made up the fact that JPM was speeding. Are you saying NASCAR has to let Latino drivers speed on pit road? You need to get over it, he was speeding. Show me your evidence. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart the list goes on and on were caught speeding earlier in the year so should all white people throw a fit because NASCAR is cheating against whites, or is it possible they both were speeding on pit road.

The thing with pit road speed limits is if the speed limit is 50 MPH drivers can go 54.9 MPH without getting in trouble, why did Juan even push the limit to begin with? He should have been going 52-53 and kept his 5 or so second lead, he made the mistake. Let’s not turn this into any racial thing. So quit playing your LATINO and or RACE card!

But, the verdict on NASCAR here is: Innocent on all counts.

Don’t like the fact well look at this.

I like the way crew chief Brian Pattie put it post race.

“It’s electronic,” Pattie said. “It’s not like there is a lot to discuss. It’s not like the old days where everybody is doing handheld (stopwatches). It’s black and white. It is what it is. They did their job. Now we go back and do ours.”

Pattie said that at some point, he will see the graphic proof of the infraction, but, he said he is pretty sure what he will see is Montoya speeding.

However I’m not done with Mr. Montoya just yet. You all want to chase shades, ghosts, and conspiracies but you’re avoiding the one solid, hard and true fact.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s Comment

Sunday during the race, JPM made a comment while serving his pass through penalty. He said, “If they do this to me, I am going to kill them.”

I was shocked, surprised, and appalled by him and that comment. I was also greatly concerned from everyone on pit road as he drove down its length, especially the officials that are down there. At that point I believe NASCAR should have red flagged the race until both he and his car were removed from the track. I think NASCAR should also fine him and the owner as well as suspend Montoya from the rest of this year’s series to include placing him on probation for the first four months of next year’s (2010) series.

If he made any kind of threatening comment to anyone during said time NASCAR would then ban him for life. I may sound harsh however I couldn’t care less how it sounds. Threatening to kill someone is a big time no-no, as well as against the law in every state, disgusting, and kids heard that, so what did those kids just learn, you tell me that?

I think I’m being soft, because as far as I’m now concerned Montoya is now nothing more than a terrorist driving an extremely fast and powerful machine ready to kill anyone for anything. I would have banned him for life right then and there if it had been my choice.

THAT’S A FACT & THE BOTTOM LINE!

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Gordon won’t have second procedure on back

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 28, 2009

Jeff Gordon says he has decided not to have a second procedure to deal with an achy back and instead will try to deal with the pain.

The NASCAR star said Saturday during qualifying for Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that the first procedure didn’t help much and he doesn’t see the point in having another injection of anti-inflammatory medication.

The four-time series champion has been dealing with a sore back for several months but ruled out surgery because it was too invasive.

Instead he will continue to focus on a series of stretching exercises and physical training in hopes the condition will improve.

Gordon is second in the points race behind Tony Stewart and will be looking for his record fifth victory at the Brickyard.

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Allstate not renewing Brickyard title sponsorship

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 28, 2009

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Allstate will not renew its title sponsorship of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ending a five-year association with the event.

Allstate was the Brickyard’s first-ever title sponsor, but Pam Hollander, the insurance giant’s director of sponsorships & promotions, said Monday that her company will shift more of its focus to college football and its USOC sponsorship.

“It just comes down to monitoring what we do and looking closely at all of our properties,” Hollander said. “We’ve been truly honored to be the first title sponsor of a race with that kind of brand and it’s been a fantastic relationship. … But when we looked at all of our business results, they were just stronger in the other properties.”

Hollander said the decision would not have any effect on Allstate’s relationship with NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne at Richard Petty Motorsports. “One has nothing to do with the other,” she said.

Hollander added that Allstate’s decision was not related to the declines in TV ratings or attendance that have impacted NASCAR in recent years. “We just want to go deeper into the relationships we have in college football and the Olympics,” she said.

Allstate is the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl, while its field-goal nets program and AFCA Good Works Team have given it a unique position in college football, Hollander said. Additionally, Allstate is the USOC’s official home and auto insurance company through the ’12 London Games.

Joie Chitwood III, the outgoing president and COO of Indy Motor Speedway, said the loss of a title sponsor will not threaten the future of the race. Chitwood, who begins a new job with Int’l Speedway Corp. in two weeks, said, “This race has been extremely beneficial for IMS and the Indy community and equally beneficial for the NASCAR world, teams and sponsors. Allstate has been a tremendous partner and five years is a great run for any major sponsorship, but the race will continue on whether it has a title sponsor or not.”

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With another win at Indy, Jimmie Johnson and Rick Hendrick still revere track

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 28, 2009

Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson (left) celebrates his win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 with crew chief Chad Knaus (center) and team owner Rick Hendrick.

Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson (left) celebrates his win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 with crew chief Chad Knaus (center) and team owner Rick Hendrick.

Team owner Rick Hendrick still seems awed by Indianapolis Motor Speedway, despite the fact that he and his drivers have practically owned the place in recent years.

Sunday afternoon, Hendrick found himself celebrating his seventh win in the 16 races that have been held at the historic 2.5-mile oval. But in no way did he appear to be any less enamored with victories at the track. As Jimmie Johnson celebrated his second consecutive victory at the Brickyard – and his third in the last four races – Hendrick spoke glowingly of what victories at the track mean to a team.

“Any time you come to Indianapolis, it’s almost like sacred ground,” Hendrick said. “Reading about it and growing up in racing, [I] never thought I’d ever go to a race here, but [to] have an opportunity to win this thing, it’s just phenomenal. It doesn’t get any better than this.

“… I still get chill bumps when I walk out [of] Gasoline Alley and see all the people on both sides of the track.”

Johnson, too, respects the wins he has there. That’s one of his more charming assets, that ability to crush records but to hold them in reverence as he is doing so.

The same could be said of his racing at Indy.

Johnson has long been a power there, has become a perennial factor in races. But he still looks at each of those wins as special, still finds enthusiasm and excitement over the chance to race at the 100-year-old track.

“To be so close to the fans, the fact that I wanted to race here as a kid in the Indy 500, then to come back and now win here, it is the coolest, coolest feeling ever,” the California native said. “To ride around just the lap in that Corvette, all the crew guys were piled on it, that is one of the coolest moments to experience and just absorb the energy of this place, the history of this track. At that point you start thinking about what this place is and what’s gone on here.

“It means the world to me. The things as far as how I feel I fit in history, I’ve never been one to think I can put myself there. It’s something that comes from all of you down the road, as you get close to retirement. I got a lot of years left in me. Hopefully four-, five-, six-time race winner here would be awfully cool.”

Johnson’s win did more than move him up the winner’s list at the track.

It signaled that typical but dangerous rally this team generally makes at this time of year. One that has made it the three-time defending series champion.

Last season, Johnson won five races after his Indy victory. He finished in the top 10 in 12 of the remaining 16 races that season. Sunday’s victory vaulted him to second in the standings, 192 behind Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner/driver Tony Stewart. This season, Johnson hasn’t drawn his usual amount of attention, but he has steadily gained traction.

And now, he’s gearing up for a run at his fourth title.

“It has been quiet,” he said. “That is good because it allows us to focus and not get caught up in all the energy around winning races and leading the points. But we know it’s coming. We know the Chase [For The Sprint Cup] is coming up. Our guys are trying to treat each race leading into the Chase like we are in the Chase.

“We’re buckled down and ready. For whatever reason, that strategy or that style has been placed on this team, and it’s not that we try to do that; it’s just the way it works. We don’t know why.”

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