Will Jimmie Johnson Finally Get His 1st Win of 2014 at Texas?

Jerry BonkowskiFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2014

Jimmie Johnson's last Sprint Cup win was last fall at Texas. Can he do so again on Sunday?
Jimmie Johnson's last Sprint Cup win was last fall at Texas. Can he do so again on Sunday?Brandon Wade

Jimmie Johnson should have at least two wins by now.

That's a bold statement, but if it wasn't for tire issues at Fontana and just not enough to hold off Kurt Busch at Martinsville, the six-time Sprint Cup champ would have been in victory lane at both places.

And if you throw in a few extra laps at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas, Johnson may have three or more wins by now.

But the cold, harsh reality is Johnson has yet to win in 2014. That's not anything to be embarrassed about because a lot of other excellent drivers have yet to reach Victory Lane thus far this season.

There's Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and several others of the same caliber.

Yet this is J-i-m-m-i-e J-o-h-n-s-o-n.

You know, the man they call "six-pack" for his six championships, the same guy his fans want to be in seventh heaven at the end of this season (indicative of tying Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most championships in a career).

And this is also the same JJ many believed would go on to dominate the new knockout format in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But the only way Johnson is going to make the Chase is to get a win. And while it's not even close to panic time, admittedly, Johnson has missed six chances for a triumph thus far and there's only 20 races left before the regular season comes to a close.

Granted, Tony Stewart didn't win any races in the regular season in 2011. But he did win five in the 10-race Chase to win his third Sprint Cup championship.

So there's a precedent of sorts there.

But Johnson is dealing with the new must win to get in Chase. And the longer he goes without a win, the less time he and crew chief Chad Knaus will be able to enjoy the luxury of planning for the Chase's new format.

Of course, Johnson and Knaus have won the Chase in a few different variations of the same theme in their previous six titles, so I'm sure the duo has already started planning and plotting what to do in this year's Chase—even though there's still plenty of time before then.

Johnson was the fastest in Sprint Cup practice on Friday. But in qualifying Saturday, he failed to make the third and final knockout round for the first time this season.

As a result, he'll start Sunday's race 16th, the deepest back in the field that he's started thus far this season ever since knockout qualifying began with the season's second race at Phoenix International Raceway.

But in a way, qualifying 16th is a good thing for Johnson. He typically seems to do his best work—uh, err, racing—when he starts from the middle or back of the pack.

I'll even go so far that Johnson is arguably the second-best back-to-front driver on the Sprint Cup circuit (Kyle Busch gets my vote for the best).

There's another reason to look with optimism on Johnson's chances in Sunday's race: He's coming off a win in last fall's race there and has two wins, a runner-up and a sixth-place finish in his last four starts there.

And that win at Texas last fall? It also was Johnson's last Sprint Cup race win to date.

What's more, in 21 overall starts at TMS, Johnson has three wins, seven other top-fives and six other top-10s. Add all that up and Johnson has finished in the top 10 at Texas 16 out of 21 times.

If there ever was a win waiting to happen for Johnson, it's Sunday at Texas. Of course, we could have said that about his last two races—or pretty much for any of his first six races this year—and yet he's still come up short each time.

If there's one thing Johnson hates more than losing in general, it's being so close several times and still not sealing the deal.

When finishes like Fontana and Martinsville occur, they only further strengthen and heighten Johnson's resolve to reach Victory Lane at the next track on the Sprint Cup schedule.

He's ready to do that Sunday. He's had enough of hearing "so close, but not quite."

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski.