1:48 PM PDT, October 30, 2012
For NASCAR rationalists, the thought of Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson winning another Cup championship is blasphemy.
May as well spit on the grave of Dale Earnhardt or rip up Richard Petty's cowboy hat.
Knaus and Johnson are an acquired taste in some NASCAR circles, much like arsenic.
Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, has a reputation — and the suspensions documenting it — that he is either a very smart man who pushes things to the limits or a cheating rascal who should be bounced from the sport for his multiple indiscretions.
Johnson isn't guilty of much of anything other than being Jimmie Johnson — a great driver with meticulous preparation whose greatest sin is growing up in California and marrying a former model.
It has not won him the affection of many fans in the NASCAR Nation despite the run of five consecutive championships before last season and the strong possibility of a sixth title in a few weeks.
Johnson closed in on that goal by winning in Martinsville and overtaking Brad Keselowski for the points lead with just three races to go. It has now become a two-man show in the Chase, much like it has been the last two years.
It's going to be hard to bet against Johnson.
He has never lost a Cup championship when he was the points leader with three races remaining.
Keselowski's championship chances could crash hard in a hurry this weekend at Texas, where Johnson's average finish is 9.7 and includes a victory in 2007. Keselowski's average finish is 25.7 and he never has finished on the lead lap in eight starts there.
"I'm not smiling," Johnson said after winning in Martinsville. "I'm not anything. It can happen to me. It can happen to the 2 [Keselowski]. It's just one of those voodoo things you don't do in this sport. With three races left, anything can happen.
"I know it's frustrating for me to say that to all of you. You're looking for somebody to call a shot. But you got to play the game; you got to run the race. We could have some mechanical issue, an electrical issue, an accident on the track. With three races left, there's a lot of laps to be run."
True, but the No. 48 is at the front of the pack, and Chas Knaus is riding shotgun.
"Honestly, it's funny because everybody always refers back to the five championships," Knaus said. "We were battling for championships well before we won our first five. We've been together for 10 plus years.
"I can't think of a season where we weren't in the championship hunt. When it's time to go and make this stuff happen, I think that's when this team excels."
Brace yourselves, NASCAR Nation. The storm is coming, and we're not talking about Sandy.
Jeff Burton looks at the numbers and understands the dynamics.
He hasn't been very good lately.
Burton hasn't won in 145 starts, a streak that encompasses four years at Richard Childress Racing. It is unacceptable as he prepares for his 20th Sprint Cup season in 2013.
"It's very make or break," Burton told USA Today. "It feels really important. It's on my mind already. It's been on my mind for a while. We've got to right this ship. We've got to do it now. This has gone on for two years. It goes on for three, that is too long."
Burton is 19th in the Sprint Cup standings and has just two Top 5s this season. This comes after a 20th-place finish in 2011. That would mark his worst back-to-back seasons since he began his Cup career with finishes of 24th and 32nd in 1994-95.
"I certainly have less years ahead of me than behind me," Burton said. "So every year you don't have success feels like a big loss. How many more chances are we going to have?"
He will move forward without his crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, who resigned last Sunday. Blickensderfer, 36, became crew chief of the No. 9 team and driver Marcos Ambrose on Tuesday.
Shane Wilson will replace Blickensderfer for the final three races. Looking ahead to 2013, Luke Lambert will be Burton's crew chief in 2013.
"I want to thank Drew for all of his effort with the No. 31 Caterpillar team this season," Childress said. "He's a great crew chief and I can't say enough about his dedication to RCR."
Marlin has Parkinsonism
Former NASCAR star Sterling Marlin recently revealed that his has Parkinsonism.
It is defined as "any condition that causes a combination of the movement abnormalities seen in Parkinson's disease — such as tremor, slow movement, impaired speech or muscle stiffness — especially resulting from the loss of dopamine-containing nerve cells [neurons]."
Marlin, 55, told ESPN.com that his symptoms first began after suffering a deep cut to the knuckle on the middle finger of his right hand that resulted in nerve damage. But instead of going to the doctor, he used Super Glue to close it shut.
"Cut the knuckle real bad on [my] bird finger ... I couldn't shoot a bird. Just impossible," Marlin recounted. "It wouldn't move and I thought that was the problem. But it got healed up and I said, 'Something's still wrong.' And it kept getting worse and worse and worse, so I went to the doctor to see what the hell's going on."
Although there is no cure, the disease is treatable.
"You just take the medicine and you'll be fine," Marlin said. "It ain't no problem."
Interested in reaching out to your favorite driver via cyberspace? The top drivers on Twitter include Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick, 662,577 followers), Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson, 322,244 followers), Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb, 305,053 followers), Brad Keselowski (@Keselowski, 301,920) and Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch, 286,697 followers).
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who for years has been the sport's most popular driver, has a Twitter account (@DaleJr) with 160,306 followers but has yet to post a tweet.
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