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Findley’s Fastlane

With five races down and five races remaining in the 2008 edition of the Chase for the Championship, the number of drivers with a chance to walk away with the crown has reduced to a third of the original field of 12 drivers.

Jimmie Johnson, on a quest to win three straight cups, remains the man to beat, but it won’t be a walk in the park for the Lowe’s team. The ever unassuming Jeff Burton leapt to second in the standings, 69 points behind Johnson, after his win at Charlotte last Saturday night.

Greg Biffle held on to third position, 86 points out and Carl Edwards dropped two spots to fourth, 168 points behind the leader.

Those guys seem to be the ones left with a real shot at winning the championship. And given Jimmie Johnson’s history at the five remaining tracks, it will take some bad luck falling upon the No. 48 team to keep him from matching Cale Yarborough’s three consecutive championships from 1976-1978.

The only remaining track where Johnson has failed to win a race in his career is at Homestead-Miami. The other four tracks remaining on the schedule have been kind to Johnson. He has won 10 times at these tracks with four wins coming at Martinsville, the site of this week’s race.

Burton, Biffle and Edwards will push Johnson, but I just don’t see him losing this championship.

Did you happen to see the interview in with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the infield at Charlotte after he wrecked? Having just blown a tire and hitting the wall at 180 mph, Junior was asked by Shannon Spake, the ABC/ESPN pit reporter, “Did you have any indication that the tire was about to blow?”

“Well, heck no! If I would have known that, I would have slowed down and not hit the wall so hard.” Junior replied.

Ask a silly question…..well, you know how that goes.

The latest, and most far-fetched, merger rumor this week includes the two biggest names in NASCAR history. Some are reporting that Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Petty Enterprises are talking merger. If true, this just proves that the good old days of NASCAR are definitely gone. These two companies are as about as far away from their respective namesakes as could be imagined.

DEI is on a fast freefall. With three drivers, three teams, and one sponsor, a tough time is ahead given the current economic conditions. And that one sponsor, Bass Pro Shops is being wooed heavily by Tony Stewart to join his new team.

Did you realize that since Dale Earnhardt died, DEI has not attracted and signed a primary sponsor for any of their teams? Think about it. Budweiser was already on board with Junior, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Dale Sr. had a close relationship for years and that company was associated with DEI even before Martin Truex came along.

They picked up the Menard’s sponsorship by default, the driver’s father owns the company. And the Army sponsorship came via the purchase of Bobby Ginn’s team. DEI has lost both of those sponsors to other teams.

I’m not certain that Teresa Earnhardt and Max Siegel are running the company well enough to attract a $20 million per year sponsor.

Same goes with Petty Enterprises, which reflect the Petty’s in name only. They are sponsorless as well. This could end up being a very sad scene that the two biggest names ever in NASCAR have no business being involved with.

Look for Carl Edwards to shake up the standing a little this week after he wins at Martinsville.

Jeff Findley is the Publisher of the Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge, Georgia, a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, and a syndicated NASCAR columnist. He can be reached via email at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.