Is a sixth Sprint Cup in Jimmie Johnson’s future?

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Jimmie Johnson will have the opportunity to repeat one of his more impressive feats.

In 2006, Johnson won his first Daytona 500 to open the season and went on to win that year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship — the first of his five consecutive Cup titles.

Now, after earning the second ‘500’ triumph of his career last Sunday (and a two-year contract extension with primary backer Lowe’s this afternoon), Johnson is focused on making sure that he’ll be driving away with a sixth NSCS crown this fall.

“When we were sitting and discussing things before the season started, we felt good about the ‘500,’ but we’re really excited for everything after the ‘500’,” Johnson said in Sunday’s post-race press conference after holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the 55th running of “The Great American Race.”

“I’m very hopeful and excited that our 48 car will be really fast at Phoenix, [Las] Vegas and moving forward. I think it’s going to be a very strong year for us.”

That’s not good news for his rivals. After failing to claim the big prize in the last two seasons, Johnson and his No. 48 squad look ready to re-take the throne they held for so long.

With all the hype of Daytona Speedweeks now done, Johnson – who also became the first victor in NASCAR’s new “Generation-6” cars – will truly begin his quest for Title No. 6 this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, where he’s won four times.

As big as a Daytona 500 victory is, it’s still just the first race of the season. Johnson also believes it isn’t a sign that he and Hendrick Motorsports have a step up on the rest of the garage in figuring out the Gen-6 machines.

“It is a little early yet,” he said. “Once we get a downforce race or two behind us, we’ll have a better understanding…Maybe after Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand.”

No doubt it’ll be a long title fight for Johnson. But it’s definitely one that he knows how to win.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “