Johnson's team admits trash talk helped

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

TORONTO - One of the things Denny Hamlin must do in the offseason is sit down with crew chief Mike Ford and make it clear that talking trash -- like Ford did at Texas about Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports crew -- won't be tolerated.

Because it says here that the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team had the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in their grasp when Hamlin crossed the finish line first in the Texas AAA 500.

But less than an hour later it was Ford -- who taunted the No 48 team and crew chief Chad Knaus in a post-race news conference -- that breathed new life into Johnson's drive for five campaign.

Johnson was all but defeated until Ford's untimely outburst.

Knaus admitted as much when he spoke after his team had won at Homestead on Sunday.

"Yes, absolutely," Knaus said of Ford's trash-talking spree.

"I think our team and our organization is better than what they have got at Gibbs. Just the facts.

"I didn't appreciate the way that they said that we were selfish and inconsiderate to the guys on our team (at Texas)."

RATINGS BONANZA

The closest finish in the history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship has the desired effect on television ratings for the final at Homestead Miami Speedway.

According to figures released by the Nielsen Company, Sunday's race drew an average viewing audience of 5.6 million on ESPN in the U.S. --about the same as last year on the full ABC network.

More importantly, though, was a huge spike in the key 18-34 demographic which showed a 33% increase over the same audience the year previous.

EYE FOR AN EYE

The winner of the Ford 400 on Sunday -- Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford -- put his foot in his mouth big time in the post-race media scrum, when he talked about his nearly two-year absence from the winner's circle prior to his two-in-a-row to end the 2010 season.

"Let me think. A 70-race winless streak? No offence, Jack, but it's like a sharp stick in the eye."

There was an audible gasp from the assembled reporters and team owner Jack Roush, who had lost his left eye in a plane crash in Wisconsin in July.

"I'm sorry about that," Edwards said to Roush right away. "That was bad. I was just having a little fun there."

PETTY BACK IN BUSINESS

Richard Petty has found the necessary funding to take over Richard Petty Motorsports for next season from George Gillett Jr.

But the patriarch of the Petty clan has announced that he will trim two of RPM's four teams when the season starts at Daytona in February.

RPM will field Fords for A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose but not replace the departing Elliott Sadler in the No. 19 Ford or Paul Menard in the No. 98 Ford.

"Currently, we are concentrating on building two solid programs with Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 43 entry and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 Ford," Petty said in a team statement.

BEIJING BULLET

The IZOD IndyCar Series will have its first Chinese driver next season after Ho-Pin Tung signed on in a second car at the Canadian based FAZZT Racing team.

He will be a teammate for Montreal native Alex Tagliani.

Tung tested recently for the team at Sebring International Raceway.

"Our goal is to run a minimum of two cars for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar season and this test was a first step in that direction," FA ZZT general manager Rob Edwards said.

FINISH LINES

NASCAR's Carl Edwards will join Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb competing at the Race of Champions in Dusseldorf, Ger-many, this weekend. The grid will also include seven-time F-1 champion Michael Schumacher, another F-1 champion in Alain Prost, and 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen ... Veteran Todd Parrott will be the crew chief for Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Stanley Tools Ford at RPM.


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