Johnson dropped back to 18th place by the chequered flag which bumps him down to tenth place in the Chase - the lowest he's ever been in the post-season battles he's been involved in. Suddenly the prospects for a sixth consecutive title for Johnson look very much diminished.
By contrast to Kyle's decent 11th place at Loudon, his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin had a second dreadful Chase outing and ended up in 29th after running dry with three to go, which means he's 66pts off Tony Stewart. It is, effectively, already all over for Hamlin, and he knows it. As for Kurt Busch, he never did really get back into the game after that pre-race upset in inspection. "It was a frustrating day," he admitted. "[The car] was certainly a handful. The front tyres felt like they were on skids, and the car was ploughing through the corners. We were late going through inspection, and that set the tone for our day."
But what about Tony Stewart - is he really the favourite now? Perhaps that's going a little too far, but he points out that the #14's current run of form goes back further than just the two wins: "It's not just these two races of the Chase, it's the two leading up before it, too ... We haven't finished outside the top seven the last four weeks. That's huge for us."
It's certainly huge for the Chase, because it's this type of form - timed for the right moment like this - that really does win championships in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
"It's way too early to be counting chickens right now," Stewart insisted. But then, he would - it's the underdog card he's been playing all season long, and it might be the strategy that sees him stop the record-setting run of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by the time the season ends at Homestead-Miami on November 20 after just eight more races.
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