NASCAR Chase Drivers Need To Beat Jimmie Johnson at California, or Fifth Title Is Guaranteed

Dustin ParksAnalyst IOctober 6, 2010

FONTANA, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet across the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway on February 21, 2010 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This weekend is the fourth race in the Chase, held at the Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. It may not be the most popular track by fans, but for one driver, it seems to be the the perfect track to start a title run.

The last three years, Jimmie Johnson has owned this track. It could be because of his promotion of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, or the fact that California is his home state.

Or it could be the simple fact that Johnson could do no wrong in the last three years at this track.

Since 2007, Johnson has come to this track and has left with a trophy in hand. This year, he enters California in a familiar place...the points leader.

Now, he's looking to once again show that in the Chase, he is the top dog.

If any driver in the Chase wants to try to dethrone the No. 48 as the Sprint Cup champion, this is the weekend to do it. Johnson has the best average finish at the Auto Club Speedway among the Chase drivers at 5.5 and has the most wins of the Chase drivers with five.

At any time, Johnson could falter and he could lose the points lead. But the Chase field needs to capitalize and beat Johnson at one of his strongest tracks.

That could prove to be beneficial because should he have issues at one of his strongest tracks, it just shows that the struggles Johnson has experienced this year have not been a fluke.

Of course, not every driver in the Chase is strong at California, but let's look at the drivers close to the lead who could beat Johnson at his home track.

Second-place Denny Hamlin has not been good at California, only securing one top-five finish, but third-place driver Kevin Harvick certainly has.

He only has two top-fives and six top-10s at this track, but he almost got Johnson in the spring race. Had he not smacked the wall coming off the fourth turn, "Happy" may have been smiling in victory lane.

Don't be surprised if he once again gives Johnson a run for his money.

Then comes Carl Edwards, the winner of the spring race in 2008. He has an average finish of 7.2, and has been knocking on the door for a win the last few months.

He could cut into Johnson's lead, but as close as the points are this season, he could take the lead.

But the driver who could make a lot of headway this weekend is a driver who also calls California home. That driver is Jeff Gordon.

The No. 24 team has been so close on so many occasions to get a win this season, and the last few weeks they have just had bad luck.

California has been great to Gordon in the past, as he has three wins and an average finish of 10th.

He has been so close to winning, and with the standings so close, a win could propel him to the top.

Even if he doesn't win, if he finishes ahead of Johnson, or the No. 48 has some bad luck during the race, Gordon could be the top driver to make a gain.

Still, the driver many teams have already circled to beat on Sunday is the one in that Lowe's Chevrolet. Johnson is now back in a familiar spot, and he does not appear ready to fall off that perch just yet.

The theme of every Chase driver is to beat that No. 48 car, and the time to act is now. If no one can get the job done, we might as well engrave his name on the Sprint Cup trophy.


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