With three races remaining in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, championship co-leader Jimmie Johnson fully expects to see the man he shares the top of the standings with battling him all the way to the finish.
Matt Kenseth pulled into a tie with Johnson last weekend with a runner-up result at Martinsville Speedway (Kenseth holds the tiebreaker over Johnson with a 7-5 advantage in 2013 wins), and they’ll both be near each other at the start of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway; Johnson is set to roll off third, Kenseth from sixth.
And at this late stage of NASCAR’s post-season stretch, Johnson doesn’t see a proverbial chink in the armor for Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
“No – I mean at this point, with three races left, I can’t say that there really is [a weakness],” Johnson said on Friday after qualifying. “I’m not planning on it. I didn’t have a lot of faith built in Martinsville being a weak track for him because he ran so good there in the spring. It certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings if he ran 15th all day [laughs] but I knew that wouldn’t be the case early on in the event and he had a strong race.
“So, I don’t think there’s a weakness for either team right now. We’re probably going to finish by each other. If somebody has a mistake, I think that will be the deciding factor. But other than that, I think we’re going to run right around each other for these next three races.”
Both Johnson and Kenseth tested last week at TMS, and with a lot of work taken care of then, Johnson focused more on qualifying runs during today’s single practice session.
That means tomorrow’s practice runs will be about fine-tuning the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for what should be a grueling battle on Sunday.
“The 20 [Kenseth] had a tire issue when we were here so we’ll try to validate a longer run and make sure there are no issues,” Johnson said of his plans for Saturday. “So, it’s very small things, to be honest. And just to get a temperature on the track and how its grip level is and what adjustment might work.
“There will be pretty fine adjustments tomorrow. We won’t be changing A-frames and springs and all that kind of stuff. It’ll be pretty minor. The engine shop would love us not to run.”