Published on October 22nd, 2009 | by Michael J Smith2
It’ll Be Tough To Keep Johnson From Fourth Title
With five races to go in the Chase and Jimmie Johnson sporting a 90-point lead over second-place Mark Martin in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points, many are ready to engrave Johnson’s name on the trophy for the fourth time in a row. Perhaps it wouldn’t be premature to do that.
The five remaining races in the Chase are Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, and Miami-Homestead Speedway. At those five tracks, Johnson has an average finish of about 9.7. If he matches that average, it will make it very tough to beat him.
Granted, Johnson has twice overcome such deficits. But in those cases, Johnson was not chasing arguably the best team in the series.
Out of the five remaining races, Martinsville and Talladega are the two biggest question marks. At those two tracks, it’s much easier to get caught up in someone else’s mess, which could result in a big points hit.
But, Johnson has won at Martinsville six times, including sweeping both races in 2007, and winning this race last year. Since finishing his second race at the track 35th, Johnson has not finished outside the top 10. He’s also posted 11 top 5 finishes since then. So, it’s highly unlikely (at least statistically speaking) that others drivers will close the points gap this weekend.
Talladega, on the other hand, could be where Johnson falters. He’s won at the track only once, and has an average finish of 17.7 there. He also has more finishes of 30th or worse (five) than he does top 5s (four) at the superspeedway. It’s safe to say that this is one of Johnson’s worst tracks. Still, he has five finishes of 13th or better in the last seven races. That doesn’t bode well for the other teams.
Texas is a decent track for Johnson, as he has posted nine top 10 finishes, including one win, at the track. His worst finish at the track was 38th in 2007. Other than that, he’s never finished worse than 15th. And, he finished in the top 2 three out of the last four races.
Phoenix is a good track for Johnson. He has an average finish of 5.3, and he has two wins there. At Phoenix, he’s never finished worse than 15th, and he has posted seven straight top 10s. He may not win Texas or Phoenix, but if history is any indication, he will post solid finishes and, at the very least, maintain his points lead.
His average finish at Miami-Homestead is 12th, though he has never won at the track. He has five top 10s in seven starts. This could be another track that teams can make up points. But, by the time the series reaches Miami, Johnson could have the championship locked up.
It’s going to be tough to beat Johnson, given his relatively good history at the remaining five tracks. He’s also entering this five-race stretch having won three of the last four races. It appears that he has hit his stride, much like he’s done the last three Chases. And, when he does that, he’s the toughest driver to beat.