It wasn’t a race, true, but the five-time champ was left in the dust by the competition Wednesday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Johnson and his team (Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch) lost to Denny Hamlin’s team (Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle) in a spirited game of “Speedway Feud,” patterned after the long-running television game show “Family Feud."
The contest, held in front of a crowd of fans in the garage area at the speedway as part of Champion’s Week activities, was the highlight of Chasers for Charity day at the track.
The final score was Hamlin 486 and Johnson 163, but it really wasn’t that close. The Hamlin team controlled the gameboard virtually the entire time. It was like a 20-second victory at Daytona.
Game organizers asked six questions of fans, car owners and others in or around NASCAR over the past month and ranked the answers. The drivers were asked to name the most popular answers to the questions.
Greg Biffle locked up the win for Hamlin’s team in the final round by naming the fifth and final driver on a list of past drivers current car owners picked as the driver they would most like to have on their teams. The four drivers named before Biffle picked the final one – Davey Allison – were Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.
Responding to the question, “Which driver did crew chiefs say they would least like their driver to have to battle on the final lap?”, Kyle Busch said, “Kyle Busch.” And he was right. Johnson, by the way, was not in the top five on that list.
Another question asked fans to name the driver who would be best suited to appear on “The Bachelor” television show. Kasey Kahne was the top pick there, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and – yes – Kyle Busch.
The non-Chase drivers picked by fans as most likely to make the Chase next season were Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kahne and Mark Martin.
The best part of Wednesday’s event matched Gordon and Burton at the podium. As they approached, Burton jokingly took off his jacket as if preparing to engage in fisticuffs. Burton and Gordon were involved in a shoving match after they crashed in the Nov. 7 Texas Sprint Cup race.
Thursday’s Champion’s Week schedule will include the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers luncheon, at which numerous awards will be presented, and the Victory Lap, which will feature the top 12 drivers roaring along – at safe speeds – on the Vegas Strip.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.