Jimmie Johnson’s second-place finish at Kansas Speedway last Sunday was enough to hand him the points lead, an eight point advantage over second-place Denny Hamlin. A small lead, but a lead nonetheless. Excluding his own legion of fans, NASCAR nation does not want to see another Johnson victory. After watching Johnson take the championship trophy home for the last four season, it’s time to see a new face up on stage when the series heads to Las Vegas for the year end banquet.
A collective groan was heard from race fans and competitors alike when they took a glance at the point standings following the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway.
It was definitely warranted.
In 2009, Johnson was running second to Mark Martin until a win at Fontana (the site of this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race) boosted him to a 12 point lead over Mark Martin. He maintained the lead for the rest of the season. In 2008, a win at Kansas Speedway bolstered Jimmie Johnson ahead of former leader Carl Edwards by 10 points. Johnson again held the points lead until the end of the year.
Though this is one of the smallest points leads Johnson has ever held over a competitor, 2010 still shows similar signs to Johnson’s previous championship winning seasons and his performance last weekend at Kansas just cemented the feeling that Johnson is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The last seven races of the season are some of Johnson’s best, and racetracks that he and crew chief Chad Knaus focus on, knowing that those will be the tracks that make or break them. For instance, this weekend the series heads to Auto Club Speedway where Johnson has had incredible success. In 15 starts there, Johnson has an astounding five victories and an average finish of 5.5.
The weekend after that, the series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway, formerly known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway which is Johnson’s primary sponsor. Johnson has six victories there in 18 starts and has an average finish of 10th.
Martinsville Speedway is yet another racetrack that Johnson excels at, which comes the weekend after Charlotte. He has six victories at that track as well and an average finish of fifth.
After that, Talladega Superspeedway, considered to be the crapshoot of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, is a track that many teams just hope to survive and it’s no different for Johnson and the No. 48 bunch.
Meanwhile, the final three races of the season—Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead—have some great statistics for Johnson as well. With five wins across all three tracks, they are definitely places where he can seal the deal if he still maintains the points lead.
It’s going to be hard to beat Johnson, as no other driver has near the success at the last 10 races that Johnson does. A shakeup in the tracks might do it, but next season the only new track in the Chase is Chicago and is replacing Fontana. That probably won’t be enough to make things difficult on the No. 48 crew.
Those fans not wanting to see another No. 48 championship may want to cover their eyes. Johnson’s closest competitors aren’t showing the strength or consistency they need to beat them. They will need to suffer some sort of a meltdown for anyone to have a realistic shot at the championship.
A little bit of hope though: Eight points is not much and Hamlin has shown strength this year that he hasn’t shown in years past. Kevin Harvick has shown the consistency needed to be able to lead the points. Carl Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing are on a comeback. Jeff Gordon may not have a victory but they’ve come close enough they may be able to begin a late-season surge.
Is the championship over? No. But if some of these drivers don’t grab the opportunity in the next few weeks at Johnson’s best tracks, it will be.