Make us your home page
Instagram

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 not in top form, but can't be counted out in Chase

Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to make every Chase since the first one in 2004.

Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to make every Chase since the first one in 2004.

JOLIET, Ill. — If you're looking for a driver with a strong head of steam entering the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, you're probably not thinking of Jimmie Johnson.

The only driver to make every Chase since NASCAR's playoff format started in 2004, Johnson seeks his seventh Cup title. But no one, it seems, is talking about the prospect of a record-tying championship.

That's because, statistically, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is having his least productive season at NASCAR's highest level.

With 10 top 10s through 26 races, Johnson will have to finish in the top 10 in each of the 10 Chase races just to match his career low of 20 (2003 and 2014). With 266 laps led Johnson is on pace for a career low; in 2005 he led 547 laps.

Johnson has two victories this season, none since March at Fontana. Only once, in 2011, has Johnson won as few as two races in a season. His average finish of 15.3 is tied for a career worst established in 2014.

So why was Johnson smiling when he fielded questions during a media event Thursday?

Perhaps because the Chase is about to start. Perhaps because the 10 Chase tracks fall right into the No. 48 team's wheelhouse. And perhaps because Johnson has won six of NASCAR's past 10 high-speed playoffs

Nevertheless, Johnson doesn't enjoy his position as a handicapper's also-ran.

"No," he said emphatically. "Hell, I'd rather be dominating and be on top and be the top pick. I don't like where we're at. We're working hard. There's a lot of optimism and a lot of great things happening. We just need to deliver consistently and execute at the track."

That has been a problem not only this season but the past two seasons, when Johnson has been eliminated from the Chase before the finale at Homestead.

Though listeners to the team radio have often noted a palpable tension between the driver and crew chief Chad Knaus, Johnson said that relationship isn't the problem in and of itself.

"It's a frustrating journey when you're off," Johnson said. "When you're on, it's easy, practically. If we were being outrun by our teammates week in and week out, we weren't the lead car at Hendrick, we'd probably have to look real hard at the relationship between me and Chad.

"But with that not being the case, we're just frustrated."

Still, it would be a mistake to count out the No. 48 team prematurely.

"You can't ever discount him and Chad Knaus and what they've been able to accomplish in this sport over the last decade," defending Cup champion Kyle Busch said. "So that's why you always put them in there."

Tweet, tweet: The 16 drivers in the Chase will display their personal Twitter handles on their windshields for the first round, or three races, rather than their names.

Sprint Cup points

Going into the 10-race Chase for the Championship:

Driver PointsBack

Kyle Busch 2,012—

Brad Keselowski 2,012—

Denny Hamlin 2,009 3

Kevin Harvick 2,006 6

Carl Edwards 2,006 6

Martin Truex 2,006 6

Matt Kenseth 2,006 6

Jimmie Johnson 2,006 6

Joey Logano 2,003 9

Kyle Larson 2,003 9

Tony Stewart 2,003 9

Kurt Busch 2,003 9

Chris Buescher 2,003 9

Chase Elliott 2,000 12

Austin Dillon 2,000 12

Jamie McMurray 2,000 12

Today's race

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400,

2:30 p.m., Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.

TV/radio: NBCSN; 102.5-FM

Jimmie Johnson not in top form, but can't be counted out in Chase 09/17/16 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2016 9:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NCAA coaches among 10 charged with fraud and corruption

    College

    NEW YORK — Four college basketball coaches were among those facing federal charges Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Steinbrenner alum Erika Peitersen makes instant impact for UT soccer

    Colleges

    TAMPA — University of Tampa women's soccer coach Erin Switalski said it's always difficult to predict a freshman's performance.

    University of Tampa midfielder/forward Erika Peitersen (Courtesy of UT)
  3. Donald Trump calls for NFL to set a rule forbidding players from kneeling during national anthem

    Bucs

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is up and tweeting, and his target is the NFL.

    The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday in Glendale, Ariz. [AP photo]
  4. No gimmes in scrappy Wiregrass Ranch's volleyball district

    Volleyball Preps

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch High coach Michelle Davis is realistic about her volleyball team this season. They will scrap for every point. They will never give up. They will encourage each other no matter what.

     Wiregrass Ranch High School girls volleyball player Jaizah Anderson (2) gets ready to spike the ball during Thursday's (9/21/17) match with Zephyrhills High School in Zephyrhills, Fla.