Looking back at Sunday’s motor-racing action, including NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup in New Hampshire and NHRA drag-racing in Texas, five things come to mind:
1. Jimmie Johnson is lurking. Yes, teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing again grabbed the headlines in the Chase title playoff, with Kenseth winning and Busch placing second for the second consecutive week. But they should be looking over their shoulders. Johnson, seeking his sixth championship, is third in the standings and only 18 points behind Kenseth after Johnson finished fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. And next up? Dover, Del., where Johnson has won seven times.
2. Hats off to Martin Truex Jr. He’s driving with a cast on his broken right wrist, got dropped from the Chase because of the race-fixing scandal involving his Michael Waltrip Racing team and Truex’s main sponsor is leaving after this year so his future is up in the air. Yet Truex set all that aside to lead 98 laps at New Hampshire. The handling on his No. 56 Toyota later went away and Truex had to settle for a 10th-place finish, but his focus and perseverance amid the distractions was notable.
3. The Chase already looks over for three drivers. There are eight races left in the playoff but Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne are in deep holes: They’re 62, 69 and 71 points behind Kenseth, respectively, and 11th, 12th and 13th in the 13-driver Chase. A driver can earn up to 48 points in a single race, but the problem facing those three is that they have to vault over so many other drivers to have a shot at the championship. Based on the first two races, just getting past Kenseth and Busch would seem a near impossible challenge at this point.
4. The NHRA top-fuel race can’t get any tighter. Drag racer Doug Kalitta not only snapped a 71-race winless drought with his win at the AAA Texas Fall Nationals, he also moved into a tie with Shawn Langdon for first place in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s top-fuel title standings. And Spencer Massey is just two points behind them with four events remaining, the last being the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona on Nov. 7-10.
5. The IndyCar season isn’t over, it just seems that way. The last Izod IndyCar Series race was three weeks ago, in Baltimore, and the next one -- a doubleheader in Houston -- is still two weeks away. How that’s supposed to build interest in the sport, especially amid NASCAR’s Chase and the onset of the NFL and college football seasons, is anyone’s guess. The season finale is on the 2-mile oval in Fontana, where IndyCar’s drivers will be testing Tuesday.