With five races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and with No. 48 Jimmie Johnson leading the points standings, it’s likely to be a similar scene as the last four years.
Can Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick pass Johnson in the rankings? Will Johnson add another championship under his belt and be one step closer in catching Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt with seven cup wins?
In 2009, the Lowe’s team finished second after leading the most laps. If they can get in the groove of things this year, they can expect to revisit victory lane at Martinsville—a place Johnson isn’t unfamiliar with, as he won the 2008 and 2007 fall race there, too.
However, second ranked Denny Hamlin is also not a stranger to victory lane at Martinsville. By destroying Johnson’s chances of a 3-peat at this track, Hamlin stole the win in 2009.
In fact, over the past four years, Hamlin or Kevin Harvick—whose ranked third in points--have never finished outside of the top 10.
Last year was the first time they raced at Talladega in late October/early November. And the season change or weather didn’t seem to deter the Lowe’s team.
In 2009, they finished sixth; however, earlier this year they placed 31st after leading the most laps.
For Hamlin, the last three out of four finishes at Talladega have been 22nd or worse. The chances of him breaking his curse are unlikely.
On the contrary though, Kevin Harvick is just coming off a victory in Talladega from earlier this year.
In 2008 and 2009, Johnson struggled in Texas with a finish of 15th and 38th, respectively. However, in April he finished second at Texas, making one heck of a comeback.
The last time Jimmie Johnson visited victory lane at Texas was in 2007—at the same time, it’s been his ONLY win in Texas.
Last year, Denny Hamlin came in second at Texas and with him only being only 41 points behind the leader, the nerves begin to cut loose.
Harvick has had a love/hate relationship with Texas. Out of his last seven finishes, he’s only managed to place in the top 10 four times.
For the last three years, Johnson had won at the fall Phoenix race.
It’s not a guaranteed win with that history, but it is intimidating to know that someone has such a phenomenal track record at the location.
Two out of three of his last finishes here in the cup closer have managed to be in the top 10.
Hamlin went to victory lane here last year. Hamlin and Harvick have also finished in the top three two times in the last three years.
With a total of 198 top 10s and 322 races under his belt, the odds are certainly in Johnson’s favor to win his fifth championship—let’s not count out the others in the chase just yet though.
In NASCAR anything can happen and I’m sure we will see that in the next five weeks.