Concord, NC – I wrote last weekend how the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover would tell us a lot about how Jimmie Johnson would fare the rest of the playoffs. After all, he took his No. 48 Chevrolet to victory lane for the 11th time of his career at Dover back in June. But, that was the last time he also came away with a top five finish on the season.
He answered a lot in coming home third last Sunday.
Now, this weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway will tell us more. See, last season Johnson won this very race which helped propel him to his record tying seventh Cup championship.
Like last year, Johnson backed his way into this year’s postseason. Prior to the start of last year’s playoffs, Johnson had just one top five finish in the previous 13 races. This season, he had just one top five effort in the previous 18 races. In fact, he had just three top five finishes all season long, all wins though.
But, this season is unlike last season. This year, we have stage and playoff points. He couldn’t just win in the regular season and ride around testing playoff setups until it was time to turn it on. He had to leave it on all year.
That’s why most were weary of picking him as a title favorite.
In the first round, Johnson finished eighth, 14th and third respectively. Last year, he finished 12th, eighth and seventh respectively.
Well, we all knew if he performed well at Dover it wouldn’t be too much of a shock. He’s the greatest ever there. But, if he didn’t, he was in trouble. Luckily, he fared very well.
Now, he heads to Charlotte, a track where he’s reached victory lane eight times during his career. He also has 15 top five finishes and 19 top 10’s to his credit at the 1.5-mile track too. He has four top five finishes since 2013 at the North Carolina oval.
So, if he can’t get a top five, or even a top 10, this weekend, then we know his finish last weekend was only due to his strength at Dover and nothing else.
Johnson, has just one top 10 finishes all season on intermediate tracks. So far this weekend, he was 15th in Friday’s practice and qualified 25th, worst among playoff drivers.
Charlotte could say a lot about Johnson’s playoff hopes moving forward.