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Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Crunching numbers after Texas


You're going to read a lot of articles this week about how the points race is back on, although it's still a decent lead for Jimmie Johnson. And when you read all those, which I'm going to assume you'll do after reading mine (since you likely just set your home page to my blog), just remember one thing:

It was all me. That's right, I did it!

Well, that is, if you believe in the classic jinx method of luck. I finally gave in and admitted last week in the ol' blog that I thought the points race was over, and it took only three laps Sunday for Johnson to have some trouble.

I don't believe in the jinx factor or luck. It was bound to happen to Johnson at some point, after a series of near misses at Talladega gave him the monster points lead. It was like I predicted for Kevin Harvick earlier this season -- he had a great season, but he had gone so long without a DNF that he was just due.

But I also don't want to ignore any of the other big topics from the weekend. There were 42 other cars in the race besides the 48. So I'm going to get started without any more of my usual incoherent ramblings. For those and oh-so-much more, just check out my new Twitter account at twitter.com/MattWillisESPN.

Déjà vu

You know what I like about the term "déjà vu"? When I type it, it automatically adds the accents so it looks like I'm sort of a linguist.

Well, it shouldn't be any surprise whatsoever that Jimmie Johnson would take a points hit at Texas. Last year, a similar situation took place. While Johnson didn't finish in the 30s, he did finish 15th while the man second in points, Carl Edwards, took the win and shaved 77 off the lead.

This year, Martin's fourth-place run took 111 points of Johnson's lead, leaving him 73 points behind Johnson as the 50-year-old chases his first Cup series title.

That deficit's been made up before, back in 1992, when Alan Kulwicki was 85 points out of the lead with two races remaining. Kulwicki was also third in the standings, behind Bill Elliott and Davey Allison.

Trivia break! Who is the only other driver, besides Kulwicki, to make up a deficit with two races remaining in the season?

Make mine a triple

As was reported throughout the weekend, Kyle Busch was trying to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series races in a single weekend, coming up a few gallons short.

This was the third time Busch had won the Trucks and Nationwide races in a weekend and gone on to go for the triple in the Cup series. What makes it more amazing is that he's the only driver to have won those first two races and even had an opportunity for the triple. Stranger still, was this was his worst finish when going for it.

Here are Busch's Cup results after winning the Truck and Nationwide races in the same weekend:

Year -- Track -- Finish
2009 -- Texas -- 11th
2009 -- California -- third
2007 -- Phoenix -- eighth

Trivia break! Busch didn't do it this weekend, but three previous times he's had a top-5 finish in all three series in a weekend. Who's the only other driver to do it even once?

Missed It by that much

Lost in all the fun of fuel mileage and the newfound points chase Sunday at Texas was a fun little nugget: Only six cars finished on the lead lap, and Kurt Busch won by more than 25 seconds.

If you think that seems like a lot, you'd be correct. Even though the margin of victory was greatly assisted by fuel mileage, according to NASCAR's Sultan of Stats Mike Forde, it's still the biggest since NASCAR began doing electronic scoring back in May 1993, besting the previous record of 22 seconds and change back at Dover in 1999. In that race, Bobby Labonte beat Jeff Gordon, and they were the only cars on the lead lap.

Trivia break! Kurt Busch became the 33rd driver to win 20 career Cup races, and he's now tied for 32nd on the all-time list with what driver?

Trivia break answers

1. In 1990, Dale Earnhardt trailed Mark Martin by 45 points and came back to win the title. The irony's noted.

2. Terry Labonte is the only other driver to get a top-5 in all three series in a weekend, at Richmond in 1995.

3. Busch tied one of NASCAR's earliest stars, Speedy Thompson, with his 20th win.