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Is the long run over?

You never want to say never, especially when it's Jimmie Johnson you're talking about. But the word's got to at least be on the tip of your tongue right now.

The five-time Sprint Cup champions finished 26th at Talladega today, which dropped him to seventh in the Chase, 50 points behind leader Carl Edwards. With just four races left, it's going to take the next thing to a miracle for J.J. to pull off a sixth straight title.

I would say heifers will fly first, but then I remember the year he won three of the last four races, or something absurd like that, and buried the field. On the other hand, he didn't have to leapfrog six other drivers that year, so maybe not even that would be enough.

In the meantime, Edwards is beginning to look like the guy -- at least until next week. Very quietly, though, his Roush teammate Matt Kenseth has crept up to second, 14 points back. There would be a measure of irony if Kenseth brought home the title, because it was Kenseth's title in 2003 -- when he simply points-raced his way to victory while winning only one race -- that gave birth to the Chase to start with.

In any event, if you're looking for someone to root for, there's young Brad Keselowski. The kid's third in the points right now and he drives for Roger Penske, who's never won a Cup title.

Ben Smith's blog.