Texas Rear View Mirror

Rear View Mirror

Like all sports sometimes a team, or in racing’s case a driver, just has it all going on. (Photo: Getty Images)

It wasn’t just that Jimmie Johnson fileted the field like a cold mackerel on Sunday. It was how completely uneventful Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 turned out.

We’ve seen Johnson dominate races like he did Sunday, leading 255 laps and wrestling the Chase lead away from Matt Kenseth by seven points in the process. Like all sports sometimes a team or in racing’s case a driver just has it all going on. Short of an alien abduction, there didn’t appear any way for Johnson not to wind up in Victory Lane Sunday.

But as has sadly been the case far more often than not this year on 1.5-mile tracks, the entertainment factor was missing. There was little if any side-by-side passing throughout the 500-mile grind and certainly not much at all where it counts the most – the lead.

To NASCAR’s credit, the sanctioning body recognizes the need to improve the intermediate track product. After last month’s test, a return to Charlotte for another shot at finding a 2014 rules package to enhance 1.5-mile racing is set on December 9th.

Certainly the lack of excitement or drama is magnified during the Chase, when the stakes are the highest as are fans’ expectations. NASCAR has a weeklong build-up to its next event and when a race fails to deliver much to talk about there will understandably be disappointment.

I still think 400 miles at Texas, Charlotte and even Talladega might help ramp up the interest level and create more immediacy for competitors.

But even then there’s no guarantee someone wont pull off the “stinking up the show” performance like Johnson did Sunday.

  • Even Jeff Gordon felt he was a long shot in the championship picture despite winning last week at Martinsville and pulling to within 27 points of the Chase lead heading into the Texas weekend. But he was officially erased from title contention Sunday when he smacked the wall early in the race after blowing a tire. As always Gordon was a class act in the aftermath and continues to be one of NASCAR’s best representatives. However had he somehow pulled off his fifth title after being added as the 13th Chase entry from the Richmond “Spin-Gate” controversy it would have been another major problem for NASCAR to handle.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s second place finish was yet another solid performance in a Chase that started out with an engine failure at Chicagoland Speedway. Junior gets a lot of flack for not winning on a more regular basis and some of it is warranted. But there of late there has rarely been a race where the No. 88 was not at least near the front of the field. Love him or hate him Earnhardt is still the sport’s most popular driver. If he could somehow find a way to be in next year’s title race all the way down to the wire it would be a significant shot in the arm for NASCAR.
  • Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row made it official during the Texas weekend they would team up beginning in 2014. It was a good move for both parties with the Denver-based team adding a solid talent behind the wheel and good guy Truex Jr. landing on his feet after the Michael Waltrip Racing debacle. But it leaves the future a major question for Jeff Burton, who was rumored to be in the Furniture Row mix at one point. Still under contract to Richard Childress Racing, Burton appears to be a man without a home. Swan Racing looks to be heading toward putting Parker Kligerman, who made his Sprint Cup debut at Texas with the team, behind the wheel in 2014. And Germain Racing, which will have a technical alliance with RCR next year with its switch to Chevrolet, appears to be sticking with sponsor Geico favorite Casey Mears. Doesn’t leave many Cup options open for the veteran Burton.
  • Saturday’s Nationwide Series race continued this season’s unsettling trend of those running for the championship playing second and third fiddles to Sprint Cup Series regulars. Brad Keselowski’s win marked the 27th time a Cup driver has been victorious in the 31 races run so far in 2013. Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing have teamed up to win 27 times this year. And of the two drivers battling for the title, only Sam Hornish Jr. has been able to make it to Victory Lane. Austin Dillon leads Hornish in the standings and there’s a distinct possibility NASCAR will have a winless champion on its hands come Homestead in two weeks. That will be a tough story to defend.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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