If you had asked me back in May, after his big win at Darlington, who was going to win the Sprint Cup this year, I would have told you Jimmie Johnson. If you had asked me again today, I would probably say Jimmie Johnson. With 5 Cup trophies on his mantle, it’s hard to pick someone else. The Chase format, as well as the tracks on which the chase is contested, all fit Jimmie Johnson and his crew.
With 20 wins in chase competition, he is the only driver who has never missed the cut in the eight seasons the format has been in effect. He has never won the kickoff race at Chicagoland, but holds the lead in all other statistics, including a Driver Rating of 112.2 and a series high finish rate of 4.6. He has done everything but win.
After an ominous start at Daytona, where JJ had a first lap crash that took him out of the race, and relegated him to a 42nd place finish, he was penalized 25 driver points for a failed inspection. All he did after all of that was go out and race his way back into contention with 3 top 5’s in a row at Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Bristol, where he finished 4th, 2nd, and 9th respectfully. After his 25 point penalty was revoked, he was back in the top 10, where he would remain for the remainder of the season.
The biggest hiccups on his 2012 resume came at the restrictor plate tracks. He had a terrible day at Talladega and again at the Coke Zero in Daytona, to go with his problems at the Daytona 500. His only other finishes all year, out of the top 20, were at Michigan in August where he finished 27th, and Atlanta where he finished 34th.
Jimmie Johnson and his team, tend to bounce back quickly from adversity and losses almost instantly. It seems that when the chips are down, that team knows how to compete with a passion most other teams only wish they had. Losing is not an option for the Lowes Chevrolet.
Johnson begins the Chase at Chicago on Sunday, tied for second place, and only three points behind Denny Hamlin. If he gets an early win, and gets in the lead, I think it will be over. I don’t see anyone beating him heads up, unless he has bad luck. He is just too good on most of the tracks he will be racing on.
I have never been a huge Jimmie Johnson fan, but I certainly have respect for his talent, and would not have a problem if he gets that sixth trophy for his mantle. For what he has accomplished this season, including the 200th win for Hendrick Motor Sports, he deserves it.
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