[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”233″][/media-credit]It was truly a Tale of Two Cities kind of day at Martinsville last Sunday afternoon. You know, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times… It could not have been much better for Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, who came away from the contest two points apart on top of the standings with three to go.
Johnson dominated a good portion of the contest, at least when he wasn’t sharing the lead with Clint Bowyer or Jeff Gordon. Johnson was up front when it counted as he kept Kyle Busch at bay in order to take his 59th career victory, his seventh at Martinsville, and the fourth of this campaign. Keselowski just wanted to be close, to keep his hopes alive, and a sixth place finish did exactly that for him, with only Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead left on the calender.
Denny Hamlin thought a win was in order for him to keep his hopes burning brightly. Instead, they got as soaked as a boat cruise on the Hudson River this week. Twice he got caught speeding on pit row, twice he let out the reins to get back near the front. Fate then stepped in and stepped on him as a short developed in the master switch to kill the juice in the car. He wound up 33rd, 49 points out. Hamlin deserved better.
Fans got what they deserved, as this was an entertaining affair. It was short track racing at its best, as they busted down the straightaways at 120 mph before hitting the brakes, trying to stay off the guy running beside them. Sometimes it did not exactly work out. Dale Earnhardt Jr was doing well in his return until he met up with Carl Edwards in the final laps as the duo saw their hopes for a good finish spin away.
Good things came the way of Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. Both were in the Top Five at the end, and presently are the only two drivers in position to move up should our two leaders falter. Bowyer is 26 back, Kahne is 29. Ask Hamlin how easy it is to have things go bad unexpectedly. You could say that for a precious few, this remains a season of light, the spring of hope, but for most of their championship hopes it ‘tis a season of darkness, a winter of despair. The Dickens, you might say.
If we have indeed identified our final four, only Johnson and Kahne have won in Texas, and only once. Johnson averages a Top Ten there in 18 starts, Bowyer’s is just over 13th in 13 tries. As for Keselowski, his best Texas finish is 14th. It just might take a far, far better thing for him to do than he has ever done before just to stay in the hunt. What do you think?