Jimmie Johnson: Still in Prime Position for Sixth Sprint Cup Title

Todd JacobsCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2011

JImmie Johnson is defending champ of the Las Vegas Kobalt 400.
JImmie Johnson is defending champ of the Las Vegas Kobalt 400.Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson has rarely done well in the Daytona 500 en route to his five NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, but it has never been an issue once the NASCAR Chase begins. Johnson has experience putting together the necessary run to a championship from the depths of failure in the Daytona 500.

Johnson's run in the Phoenix Subway 500 was uneventful, and he avoided the carnage that ensued in the two major crashes.  Finishing in the top five was a good day for Johnson in Phoenix, but it was also on a track where he has dominated in the past.

Now the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads into Las Vegas, a track Jimmie Johnson has owned since the repaving and progressive banking was added in 2006.  Johnson owns the second-best power ranking on the Las Vegas track among the active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, and he has an average running position of 9.6 on the mile-and-a-half cookie cutter.

Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have won four of the last six races on the fast Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including his win last season over his teammate and car owner Jeff Gordon. Johnson can make up ground quickly by defending his Las Vegas victory and then working to improve his record on the Bristol bullring.

Johnson is the defending winner of the March race on the wild Bristol banks, but he has met with some of his worst finishes of his career on the short track also.  If Johnson comes out of Bristol unscathed with a win or a top-five, he then moves on to two of his favorite tracks, Fontana and Martinsville. 

The No. 48 team is right on track to make this yet another one-man show heading into the NASCAR Chase.  NASCAR's manipulation of the schedule this year forces us to come to one unavoidable conclusion: Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team will be in the points lead by the Martinsville race, if not sooner.  Get on your sour faces, Jimmie Johnson haters.  It is going to be a long season.