Jimmie Johnson missed out on an opportunity to take the lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup last weekend at Charlotte, but today’s race at Talladega Superspeedway could be another chance for him to do just that.
The five-time Cup champion, who sits four points behind Matt Kenseth going into today’s Camping World RV Sales 500, has been the class of the field at restrictor plate tracks this season. In February, he made a late charge to win his second Daytona 500, then finished fifth at ‘Dega in the spring before adding another triumph at Daytona in July.
It’s a much different string of results than the ones he had at plate tracks last year; he crashed out of the two Daytona events, lost an engine in the spring race at ‘Dega, and finished 17th in the fall race there.
Today’s race also marks a critical point in the Chase. In the past, Johnson has maintained that the true championship contenders will become clear following ‘Dega, and this week, he repeated the sentiment.
“I hope this trend of top 5 finishes stays alive in Talladega,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re going to need. After Talladega, at that point, you can really race individuals [in the Chase].
“I think up until Talladega, you’re still racing the field and anything can happen and anybody has a chance. But leaving Talladega, you can really narrow in on who is left and what that spread is in points.”
Plate racing may be known for its variability, but as the Chase contenders prepare to face their biggest challenge of the post-season, Johnson is becoming as close to bankable as you can get in this particular discipline. Let’s see if his luck holds today.