Brickyard Blast: Does This Mean Johnson Wins Again?
The last three times Jimmie Johnson won the Brickyard 400, he went on to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Anyone care to bet on his championship chances after winning the Brickyard for the fourth time last week?
Much has been said about winning the Brickyard being a harbinger of a championship.
In fact, eight times in 18 runnings of the Brickyard 400, the winner has gone on to win the championship (Jeff Gordon — ’98, ’01, Dale Jarrett — ’99, Bobby Labonte — ’00, Tony Stewart — ’05, and Jimmie Johnson — ’06, ’08, ’09).
More impressive than the victory was the dominating fashion in which he won.
In the past, this race has been won on fuel mileage gambles or a bit of strategy to get track position late in the running at a track where passing is at a premium.
But not Johnson on Sunday. He whooped the field on Sunday.
“Jimmie Johnson wasn’t even in his own zip code,” said runner-up Kyle Busch. “He was in his own country. The rest of the field has a whole lot of work to do, I can tell you that.”
Greg Biffle, who led early, knew he had nothing for Johnson late in the race.
“It didn’t really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you in about four or five laps anyway,” Biffle said after the race. “His car was just really, really good.
“Sometimes you don’t want the guy behind you, you know, if inevitably he’s going to pass you no matter what.
“Sometimes it’s not an advantage to be in front of him, to be honest with you, because it puts you in a position for more guys to be battling with you than the one.
“But he ran me down in two laps from 25 car lengths.”
Johnson’s 99 laps led were second all-time in the race. Only Jeff Gordon, who was out front for 124 circuits in 2004, has led more in a single Brickyard 400.
After failing to win championship No. 6 last year, Johnson appears poised to exact revenge. The win in Indianapolis was his third of the season. If the Chase started today, he would be tied for the top seed with Stewart and Brad Keselowski.
Not that it really matters, but Johnson is fourth in the current standings, 27 markers behind teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who assumed the points lead with a fourth-place finish at Indy.
“I feel that from a performance standpoint, we’re as strong as we’ve ever been,” said Johnson. “We’ve had issues late in a race that’s cost us track position for a variety of reasons, and that’s the part that we need to make sure is buttoned up before the Chase starts.
“But from a performance standpoint, these are amazing race cars. We’ve made a lot of progress through the off-season and then getting started this year.
“I feel really good about the Chase. I’m ready for it to start.”
After that performance, I’m sure he is.
Contact Andy Cagle at email@example.com.
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