Jimmie Johnson: Is He Still the Man to Beat in Charlotte?

Paul CarreauAnalyst IMay 23, 2011

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 17:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 17, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

To say that Jimmie Johnson runs well at Charlotte Motor Speedway would be like saying that Michael Jordan was a decent basketball player.

During the middle part of the last decade, it was almost unnecessary to even run races in Charlotte, because Johnson winning was a foregone conclusion.

In the six races at what was formerly known as Lowe's Motor Speedway between 2003 and 2005, Johnson won five of them; his other finish was an extremely disappointing third.

He swept the races in both 2004 and 2005.

His more recent history at NASCAR's home track has still been very productive, but nowhere near as dominant as it once was. He did score a win here in 2009, but that is the only victory for him in his last 10 appearances at the mile and a half track.

In total, Johnson has six wins in 19 starts at Charlotte. He has 14 top-10 finishes, with 10 of those resulting in a top-five. More impressively, Johnson has led laps in all but one of his career starts in Charlotte.

The lone race that he didn't lead laps was in his first start at the speedway.

Now, that Johnson is in a minor rut at Charlotte, the question has to be, is he still the man to beat when the series stops here?

We had our first glimpse of what could happen in the Coca Cola 600 this past weekend at the All-Star race. Carl Edwards put on the sort of dominating performance that normally would have been expected out of Johnson.

But Johnson still showed plenty of signs that he is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Charlotte. After starting 11th, Johnson drove his way through the field, and by lap 63 had taken the lead.

After segment two, crew chief Chad Knaus elected to change just two right side tires, and that absolutely did not work for Johnson. After a caution came out for a Regan Smith spin, the team then went ahead and changed four tires.

With four fresh tires instead of just two, Johnson again began to make his way back to the front.

In the end, after swerving to avoid a slowing Kurt Busch, Johnson made contact with his teammate Mark Martin, and it was enough to put a halt to Johnson's progress through the field.

He finished the event in 11th place.

So, while Johnson is not the dominant force he once was at Charlotte, he is still easily one of the favorites. Kyle Busch,

Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon all have a great chance to win this weekends 600 mile race, but in the end, Charlotte should always be considered Jimmie Johnson's house as long as he is still behind the wheel.