Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jimmie Johnson must avoid Texas trouble

Jimmie Johnson saw his points lead dwindle from 184 to 73 after crashing last year on Lap 3 at Texas.

Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson saw his points lead dwindle from 184 to 73 after crashing last year on Lap 3 at Texas.

Times wiresFORT WORTH, Texas

Jimmie Johnson arrived at Texas last fall with a huge lead and a bunch of different favorable scenarios for winning another Sprint Cup title. Not even a third-lap crash derailed his championship effort. Johnson is back at the 1½-mile high-banked track again in the lead with three races left. Except this time he can't afford more Texas trouble. Johnson barely leads the Sprint Cup's closest three-way Chase for the Championship to date, with only 38 points separating him, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

While there is no margin for error — or big wrecks — like in the past, Johnson insists he feels no extra pressure.

"It is really easy what I need to do. I need to win the race, I need to finish ahead of the (No.) 11 (Hamlin) and the (No.) 29 (Harvick), and I think that's going to mean winning the race," Johnson said Friday.

Johnson finished 38th after last year's early crash and had his points lead slashed from 184 to 73 with two races left. He recovered and went on to his fourth consecutive championship.

"Previous Chases when I had a big points lead and (Texas) has a fat lady singing over on the balcony, and nobody wants to believe me to say, 'Hey this thing isn't over.' You have got to run the race, got to play the game," Johnson said. "… But until you go out there and take the checkered flag, nothing's guaranteed."

Nobody's arguing with Johnson now.

Hamlin has a Cup-high seven wins in 2010, including at Texas in April, when he held off Johnson.

"It's fun, trust me," Hamlin said. "For the race fan in me, I'm excited to see what happens the next three weeks between three drivers."

Hamlin has finished outside the top 10 only once in this Chase and trails Johnson by 14 points, with Harvick another 24 back. Harvick has three top-three finishes the past five races.

In April, Johnson just escaped a late crash that took nine cars out and set up Hamlin's final push. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart made contact while going three-wide with Johnson, who was inside and escaped without being hit.

Gordon said everything is fine between him and Johnson, his protege and Hendrick Motorsports teammate, but don't expect him just to let Johnson race by him Sunday.

"If it's leading one lap, that's one thing," said Gordon, fourth in the standings but out of the running, 207 points behind Johnson. "But if we've got a car that's capable of going out there and dominating the race and winning the race, then we're going to go out there and we're going to do that."

Sprint Cup points

With three races to go. Only these drivers are eligible in the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jimmie Johnson 6,149—

Denny Hamlin 6,135 14

Kevin Harvick 6,111 38

Jeff Gordon 5,942 207

Kyle Busch 5,919 230

Carl Edwards 5,902 247

Tony Stewart 5,832 317

Matt Kenseth 5,825 324

Kurt Busch 5,799 350

Jeff Burton 5,797 352

Greg Biffle 5,788 361

Clint Bowyer 5,782 367

Up next

Texas 500, 3 p.m. Sunday, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth


Jimmie Johnson must avoid Texas trouble 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 9:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.