Wed04162014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Johnson victim of Sports Illustrated cover jinx?

Through the years being on the cover of the popular magazine has become the “kiss of death”

On the basis of Jimmie Johnson’s impressive win at Kansas Speedway, this past week’s issue of Sports Illustrated featured the five-time and defending Sprint Cup Champion’s photograph on the cover of the magazine.  The Kansas win vaulted Johnson from the depths of this year’s Chase field into a very respectable and competitive 3rd place in the standings.

A dubious distinction at best. Through the years being on the cover of the popular magazine has become the “kiss of death” to innumerable teams or athletes.  It didn’t take long for reporters to ask Johnson for his take on the dreaded Sports Illustrated jinx. “I was made aware of that jinx last Tuesday,” Johnson said prior to last weekend’s activities in Charlotte.  “I’ll tell you how out of

sports minded I am. I thought the jinx had something to do with the cover of the Madden Football Game.”

“In my heart, there’s no way a photograph on a magazine is going to change the luck of a race team.  If we lose this championship, it’s because of what happens on the track, not a photograph in a magazine.”  Fast forward to last Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  As we have become accustomed to as the Chase heads into the heart of the ten race series, Jimmie Johnson in the front of the pack for most of the evening.  Following on the heels of his win in Kansas, it looked like at least another top five finish, if not better. We could look for another solid performance from the No. 48 team heading to Talladega.  Only this time things were destined to be different.

Following a restart with 31 laps remaining, Johnson tried to get past Ryan Newman. He drifted up into the No. 39 car in turn one, started to turn sideways, almost saved it and then slammed almost head on into the wall.

The wreck dropped Johnson to a dismal 34th place finish, and worse still, dropped him to 8th place in the Chase standings.  With just five races to go, Johnson sits a pretty much impossible 35 points behind the leader Carl Edwards.  Next time a Sports Illustrated photographer shows up, I bet Johnson runs like mad.

For Matt Kenseth, the win could not have come at a better time.  Frequently the forgotten man in this year’s Chase, the win moved Kenseth to third place,  just 7 points behind Edwards.  It was Kenseth’s third win of the season, and his 21st career Cup win.  Kyle Busch’s second place finish moved him into fourth place, still alive in the championship hunt, just 18 points out of the lead.

Up next is the real wild card in the Chase, Talladega. Historically a track where anything can happen, the Speedway’s management has added a real kicker to this weekend’s Good Sam Club 500. They believe that the race could eclipse 100 lead changes.  If that happens, the driver who leads the most times throughout the race will receive a $100,000. “There’s a real excitement and buzz going into our race weekend,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch.  “Our fans look forward to seeing a lot of passing and a lot of lead changes. It makes sense to put an extra incentive on giving our fans what they want.”  Talladega currently holds the NASCAR record with 88 lead changes in a race. Both instances occurred in the spring races in 2010 and 2011, with the 2010 fall race narrowly missing with 87 lead changes.  Talladega also holds the record for different leaders with 29, fastest average race speed at 188.354 mph and fastest qualifying speed at 212.809.

NASCAR will implement two rule changes for Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500. The size of the restrictor plates the teams will use has been increased by 1/16th of an inch, providing the teams an extra seven to 11 horsepower.  Additionally the pressure relief valve on the cooling system will be recalibrated to reduce the pressure by approximately eight pounds per square inch.

You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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