After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year.
Let’s get started with the newly crowned six-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson…
No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2013 Stats: First Place, Six Wins, 16 Top-5s, 24 Top-10s, 1,985 Laps Led
Average Start: 9.8
Average Finish: 10.7
Estrada Says: After winning the Daytona 500 and then re-taking the points lead with his April victory at Martinsville following mediocre runs at Bristol and Fontana, Johnson steadily built his championship edge to 75 points following Watkins Glen. But the final four “regular season” races were a disaster with finishes of 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th going into the Chase. After that stretch, the big question was whether or not Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team could rebound and mount a title run. That question was answered emphatically as Johnson overcame a stellar post-season start from Matt Kenseth with two wins and nine Top-10s in the final 10 races to gain a sixth Sprint Cup that has enhanced his legacy even further.
DiZinno Says: You know Johnson and the No. 48 team will be clutch in the Chase; you just don’t expect them to be struggling going into it. And while that rough one-month stretch was such a rare occurrence, the mark of a champion is the ability to double down, refocus the efforts and kick the effort into high gear come the playoffs. Put simply it was one of the most clinical Chase efforts in the format’s 10 years, because there were no imperfections, no mulligans. Add in the Daytona 500 win at the start of the year and it was a perfect way for Johnson to win his sixth title.