When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaves Richmond in early September, the Chase field will officially be set. While 12 drivers will be competing for the championship, it has reached the point where it seems as if it is just a one-man race.
Jimmie Johnson has dominated the first half of the Sprint Cup season. While other drivers have shown signs of strength, it is Johnson who sits atop the standings and is the leader in many key statistical categories.
He has been the point leader following the conclusion of 16 out of the 18 races run this season and has yet to slip below third place in the standings.
Johnson is currently tied with Matt Kenseth for the most wins, with four. His total could, and probably should, be higher. Johnson received a black flag for jumping a restart with approximately 20 laps to go at Dover. If not for that, he was well on his way to another victory.
Johnson leads the series in top-10 finishes with 12, and his eight top-five finishes are also first among all drivers.
He has completed all but nine laps this season, the best on the circuit, and has led a series-best 1,020 laps. Johnson is also one of just seven drivers who has managed to be running at the end of every race. To make matters worse for the rest of his competition, the best may still be yet to come for Johnson and his team.
Since the introduction of the Chase in 2004, Johnson has won 22 races during the NASCAR playoffs. That is double the amount of second-place Tony Stewart, who has 11 wins during that same time.
Overall, Johnson has won a combined 34 times at the tracks that make up the Chase for the Championship. That is higher than the career win totals of all of the other drivers currently sitting in a Chase spot, with the exception of Stewart.
Twice in his career, 2007 and 2010, Johnson has posted at least four wins within the first 18 races of the season. Not surprisingly, he won the championship in both seasons.
While there is still half of a season to go and any countless number of things can ultimately change the outcome of the season, statistically speaking, Johnson seems like a virtual lock to once again be crowned champion.