NASCAR Notebook: Jimmie’s reign may topple

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2011

Associated Press
The NASCAR notebook …
LOUDON, N.H. ó Jimmie Johnson might not have to clear space for a sixth title trophy.
Oh, there’s still time for Johnson to make a run. A big one. No one dominates Chase races like Johnson and he has the hardware ó five straight Sprint Cup championships ó to prove he’s the best driver in the sport.
This season, Johnson’s reign could get toppled.
Johnson battled an unruly car, got irritated with crew chief Chad Knaus, made some late contact with Kyle Busch and finished 18th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“We didn’t have a car like we thought we would,” Johnson said. “We were really optimistic yesterday. After practice, the car was great. Today, it just didn’t have the speed. Track position was so important and some pit calls didn’t work out our way. We’ll take it on the chin and go on to the next one.”

QUESTIONABLE QUESTION: Tony Stewart spars with the media and never fails to let a reporter know when he has asked what Stewart considers a stupid question.
In a good mood after a victory, Stewart still had some fun at the media’s expense. One reporter ó who must have been watching the Red Sox game ó asked Stewart:
“On the front straightaway where you took the lead, what was the technique behind that? When did you decide that was the point to make your move?”
Stewart, of course, won the race because Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps left.
“I mean, I planned it for 280 some odd laps,” Stewart said to laughter. “I knew he was going to run out of fuel right at that moment versus just driving through him and running over him. Seems like it might be an easier option to turn left and run around him. That was the strategy all along. Just had to wait for that opportunity.”
Stewart had the room in laughter, when the moderator said with a smile, “no follow up on that.”
“Wow,” Stewart said. “And we were doing so good in here today.”

JUNIOR FALLS FLAT: Dale Earnhardt Jr. believed he had a top-10 car. For the early part of the race, he backed it up by running up front and providing a glimmer of hope this could be the race he ended his miserable losing streak.
He was third last week, but was struck with flat tires at two different parts of the race and finished 17th Sunday. He’s eighth in the Chase standings, 26 points behind leader Tony Stewart.
“It’s frustrating, but I was happy with how the car was driving,” Earnhardt said. “As a driver, we haven’t had that all year.”

DENNY’S DONE: Denny Hamlin ran out of gas and has about run out of time to win a championship.
Hamlin entered in 12th and stayed there after a 29th-place finish Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.