What must Richard Petty be thinking under that awesome hat of his?

When Clint Bowyer passed inspection at Talladega last week, I failed to win. Still, I’m up a fake 40 dollars heading into the final three races of the season.  My financial reality is far different than Petty’s. For one, I’m not betting real money Mr. IRS auditor who should be working right now. More importantly, any financial reality I have is a peanuts compared to the mountain of issues “The King” is facing.

As we enter Texas, there was doubt if Richard Petty Motorsports would even be able to field a team. Petty’s best driver, Kasey Kahne, basically quit because he thought the equipment was inferior. The one driver interested in being there, AJ Allmendinger, got in a shouting match with Petty earlier this year.  Oh yeah, rumors swirl of massive debt, tossing George Gillett to the curb and fielding between zero and four cars for 2011.

Richard Petty got into racing because he loves the thrill of competition. He may not get a chance to compete in 2011. If Petty can get a team on the track, there’s no indication it or they will be the least bit competitive. Kahne made the 2009 Chase, blew out an engine early and became a non-factor. That’ the best success the team has had in the last four years.

All the while, this legend is watching someone come right after his crown. Say what you want about Jimmie Johnson, but he’s three races away from his fifth straight title. Nobody, not even “The King,” has won four straight championships. And as the number of competitive NASCAR teams continues to dwindle, there’s no reason to believe Johnson won’t be a factor for the next several years.

Johnson will never win 200 races. But pitchers of the last 30 years won’t win 511 games like Cy Young. That didn’t mean Roger Clemens was in the discussion of all-time greats before that pesky federal indictment. It doesn’t mean Johnson may take Petty’s place as the best ever. Unless you think Dale Earnhardt should be there. It’s a fair argument too, and I don’t want my house to get egged.

We’ve seen the greatest in their craft limp to the finish line. Willie Mays was a shell. Brett Favre is a shell. I’m not sure what Richard Petty Motorsports will be. I don’t think Petty knows either.

Oh yeah, fake betting time.

25 fake dollars on Jimmie Johnson at 7/2:

I predicted Johnson would win his fifth straight title. In previous runs, Johnson has won late in the season to cement his status. His record at Texas and sister tracks Charlotte and Atlanta are great. It’s not rocket science

15 fake dollars on Denny Hamlin at 6/1:

Hamlin has won in Texas. If he wins the title, Hamlin has to win one of the next three races. Again, not a big stretch.

10 fake dollars on Kurt Busch at 12/1:

This is a stretch. Busch has been irrelevant in this year’s Chase. But you won’t find a better record at Texas and its sister tracks than Kyle’s big brother.  Plus, I’ve never bet seven fake bucks on a driver the whole year.

While I don’t know what Richard Petty is thinking, I do know what The Spread thinks about Sunday’s race. Enjoy, and insert random catchphrase here.

Jimmie Johnson 4-1
Denny Hamlin 6-1
Jeff Gordon 9-1
Kevin Harvick 9-1
Kyle Busch 10-1
Tony Stewart 10-1
Greg Biffle 12-1
Kurt Busch 12-1
Carl Edwards 12-1
Jamie McMurray 18-1
Clint Bowyer 22-1
Jeff Burton 22-1
Matt Kenseth 22-1
Kasey Kahne 25-1
Mark Martin 25-1
Juan Pablo Montoya 25-1
Joey Logano 30-1
Ryan Newman 40-1
David Reutimann 40-1
Martin Truex Jr. 40-1
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 45-1
A.J. Allmendinger 50-1
Brad Keselowski 80-1
David Ragan 100-1
Field (All Others) 100-1