5 Reasons Jimmie Johnson Should Still Be the Sprint Cup Favorite
Seeing your car's engine blow up while leading with five laps to go in a crucial race isn't exactly an encouraging moment in the course of a potential championship season. Declining to talk to the media out of frustration also seems like a concession of defeat, at least for that weekend.
In other words, things don't look as good for Jimmie Johnson as they could.
That's not a problem, though, for the most successful driver in Chase for the Sprint Cup history. In fact, it should only be a blip on the radar; a stroke of bad luck on a weekend where almost every Hendrick Motorsports-powered car had engine trouble.
There are plenty of other opportunities to get it right—something that Johnson's team has done more often than not this season and in Chase seasons past. Here are five reasons why they should remain the favorite in this year's Chase.
Of the 10 tracks in the Chase, Johnson has an average finish of 10.0 or better at seven: Phoenix, Martinsville, Kansas, Dover, Texas, Loudon and Chicagoland.
The only track where his average finish is worse than 13.5 is Talladega—a well-documented crapshoot due to the high likelihood of a major accident taking out the lead pack. (He's still won there twice in his career.)
One in Four
NASCAR has held the Chase eight times now for a total of 80 races. Johnson has won 20 of them—a number unchallenged by any other driver.
Besides Johnson, only Tony Stewart has more than 10 victories, while his 43 top fives, 58 top 10s and average finish of 9.0 are also untouched by any of the competition.
Timing Is Everything
Right about now is the right time for a team to get hot. Look at Johnson's last seven races: including his win at Indianapolis, he's led laps in five of them—the exceptions being a crash at Daytona and a third place at Watkins Glen.
Expanding that scope to the past 13 races, he's led laps in seven of them and finished in the top five in four of the other six.
Race Like You've Been There Before
Not only has Johnson come out on top of the Chase five times, he's the only driver to have made it every year it's been held.
Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch, the only other drivers to take Chase titles, have each missed it. So have Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. That's a standard of success that few drivers will ever hope to accomplish, especially in the modern era.
Chip on the Shoulder
Perhaps losing one championship is exactly what the No. 48 team needs to get back to the top of the heap.
2010's championship battle with Denny Hamlin was intense, with Johnson losing the points lead very late in the Chase and only regaining it at Homestead. Last year, Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire Hendrick Motorsports squad just didn't have the same "it" factor after crashing at Charlotte.
This year, they're as hungry as anyone to get back on top.