The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Sports Columns

June 4, 2014

Ken de la Bastide: Johnson back in title hunt

Hunter-Reay has dismal weekend

What a difference two weeks make in the Verizon IndyCar and Sprint Cup series racing action.

Two weeks ago the talk in the national sports media was that six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was in an 11-race winless slump and there was speculation that he would not qualify for the poor excuse of a championship run devised by NASCAR.

The only one who didn’t seem worried about being winless was Johnson, who maintained that 16 different drivers wouldn’t win a Sprint Cup race before the Chase began. The Lowe’s Chevrolet driver believed he would make the championship chase based on points.

How that all has changed.

Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend, all but assuring himself a spot in the Chase.

Then last weekend Johnson won for a record ninth time at the “Monster Mile” in Dover to join Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano as two-time winners in 2014.

All the talk now is how Johnson is set to challenge for a record-tying seventh championship along with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Did anyone really believe that Johnson wasn’t going to win a race this year? He should have won at California before a tire problem cost him the victory and has recorded several runner-up finishes.

I suspect that Johnson and Harvick will both win at least one more race before the Chase begins and be at the top of the standings.

Drivers without a win this year and can be expected to score a victory include Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle.

Meanwhile the point standings for the Verizon IndyCar Series got jumbled following the two races at Detroit.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had a 40-point lead after winning the Indianapolis 500 and with the street courses up next was expected to increase that margin.

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