Drive for five is alive

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

The late singer-songwriter Jim Croce first put it out there that You don't tug on Superman's cape and expect not to get a response.

So with that in mind maybe Clint Bowyer wishes he hadn't said of four-time champion Jimmie Johnson that: "Superman hasn't lost his cape, but it's a lot shorter than years past" after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Speedway on Saturday night.

Bowyer, who will go after his first title after clinching a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship at Richmond, was referring, of course, to Johnson's less than dominant No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this season.

And when Johnson got wind of the comment he was quick to respond and it was a response that should strike fear into the other 11 Chase contenders as they head for the one-mile track at Loudon, N.H., next week.

"If guys think we are vulnerable, it's my job to show up at Loudon, qualify in the pole and win the race," Johnson said matter-of-factly.

"That's what we need to do regardless. I'm not concerned about what people think of my race team and where I'm at and what kind of threat we are for the championship. I'm just more concerned about going out and getting the damn job done.

"That's what I need to focus on. I think with two good runs going into the Chase, my guys are ready, I'm ready, we have got our mojo back and we are looking forward to it."

The drive for five is indeed alive, according to Johnson

"All-in-all I am excited about our chances going into it," he said. "I think this team is where it needs to be."

DOWN TO THE WIRE

It looks like the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship will go down to the wire after D.J. Kennington won the Wild Wing 300 Saturday at Barrie (Ont.) Speedway in the No. 17 Castrol Edge Dodge in the closest finish of the season.

He won a drag race to the finish line with Don Thomson Jr. in the No. 4 Home Hardware Chevrolet to close within 21 points of leader J.R. Fitzpatrick, who finished fifth in the No. 64 Schick Chevrolet.

Kennington led the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event for much of the final 100 laps but a late-race caution allowed Thomson to mount a charge.

Thomson took the lead on the final lap when he bumped Kennington in Turn 1. Kennington returned the favour in the final two turns. The margin of victory was .015 seconds.

Peter Shepherd III finished third, followed by Scott Steckly, who led a race-high 179 laps, and Fitzpatrick.

AIR GUARD 400

Denny Hamlin claimed the top seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet in Saturday's Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Hamlin beat teammate Kyle Busch in a battle to the wire to win his sixth race of the season putting him on top in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship that starts next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch finished second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose.

Clint Bowyer secured the final place in the Chase with a sixth-place run.

Greg Biffle's clinching of a Chase spot was a mere formality on Lap 48, when Jason Leffler became the first driver to drop out of the race. That guaranteed Biffle at least a 42nd-place finish, all he needed to qualify for NASCAR's post-season.

GRAND PRIX OF ITALY

Fernando Alonso drew a massive cheer from a solidly pro-Ferrari crowd at Monza in winning the Grand Prix of Italy on Sunday ahead of defending world champion Jenson Button in a rival McLaren.

And to top the day off for the Italian-based team, Felipe Massa came third in the other Ferrari team car.

Button had outraced Alonso on the start in a nice bit of driving but lost the edge in a late-race pit stop when the Ferrari team got Alonso out just ahead.

The result also gave Alonso's bid for a third championship a boost after pre-race points leader Lewis Hamilton damaged his McLaren on the first lap and retired.

That gave Red Bull's Mark Webber -- who finished sixth Sunday -- a five point over Hamilton and 21 over Alonso.

FINISH LINES

Nick Heidfeld, according to a report in Autosport Magazine, is on the verge of an early return to Formula One this season with sources suggesting that he is close to a deal that could see him drive for Sauber at the Singapore GP ... Good sport of the week goes to Ryan Newman, who didn't duck the media after failing to make the Chase in his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. "Obviously disappointed not to make the Chase," Newman said. "Unfortunately, we will not have a shot at the championship, but an opportunity to win in 10 more races, and that's a lot of fun in itself."

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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