Been there, done that. Those four words pretty much sum up Jimmie Johnson when it comes not only to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but also to racing at Dover International Speedway. It has been 13 races since Jimmie Johnson has been to victory lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but this just might be the weekend where the confetti comes out once again for the six-time series champion.
A career-best nine of Johnson’s 69 career wins have come at Dover, where this week’s AAA 400 will be run. That includes his win earlier this season in the FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks and also last season’s AAA 400. Yes, that means he is looking for his third consecutive win at the one-mile track.
Johnson’s nine wins at Dover are the most ever by a driver at Dover and are five more than Jeff Gordon, who is second among active drivers with four wins. Tony Stewart is the only other active driver with more than two wins at Dover with three.
It isn’t always about the wins at Dover for Johnson, either – it is also about consistency. While Johnson has nine wins in his 24 races at Dover, he also has 13 top-5s and 18 top-10s. In the last 13 races at Dover, he has finished worse than seventh just three times, finishing seventh, 16th and 17th. In that same stretch (which dates back to the 2008 spring race), Johnson has six wins and eight finishes of fourth or better.
Johnson has been so good at this track that his average career finish is 8.4 is tied for the sixth-best track in his career. Three of the tracks better than 8.4 – Martinsville Speedway (5.2), Phoenix International Raceway (6.3) and Kansas Speedway (7.6) – are still coming up in the Chase.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano might have won the first two races of the “Challenger” segment of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup, but there is a familiar face they may want to watch out for as Johnson is right in their rearview mirrors.
The season is entering a stretch of races where Johnson could very well rip off three wins a row and put himself in the driver’s seat heading to the final two segments of the Chase. He has a combined 18 wins, 32 top-5s and 49 top-10s in 66 career races at Dover International Raceway, Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I am not trying to start a conspiracy theory – there are plenty of those already – but NASCAR has set the new Chase up pretty well for Johnson. A win at Dover would advance him into the “Contender” round of 12 drivers, a win at either Kansas (two career wins) or Charlotte (seven career wins) would send him into the “Eliminator” round of eight, while a win at Martinsville (eight career wins), Texas Motor Speedway (three career wins) or Phoenix (four career wins) would send him straight to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami.
If Johnson can take advantage of the next few tracks, it won’t just be Keselowski and Logano who will be seeing him in the rearview. So also will Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
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