BROOKLYN, Mich. — With a third-place finish last Sunday at Watkins Glen International, Jimmie Johnson accomplished a goal — taking over the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
“To be able to leave the Glen with the points lead is something I really wanted to do,” Johnson said Friday at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. “To be in this position and feel the pressure that comes with leading the points. . . . in years past, I think we’ve learned a lot from it and have entered the Chase better prepared.”
But pressure? There’s no prize for leading the points after 26 races. Four weeks hence at Richmond, the Chase for the Sprint Cup field will be reset according to number of victories, and the regular-season points lead will be moot.
That’s not the way Johnson sees it.
“It’s not the same pressure as the Chase, but a points leader is a points leader,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service. “And when you look at all the events we’ve had and what’s going on, there’s a lot of prestige involved with it. It means you’re running well. Â
“So we’re again glad to be there. Hopefully, we can stay on top and ideally pull away and continue to gain more points than anyone else and be in that rhythm and mind-set entering the Chase.”
Nor would Johnson mind seeing some sort of recognition for leading the standings after 26 races.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to win the regular-season points championship,” Johnson said. “I don’t even think you get a sticker for it or anything. . . . I’m sure the monetary side would be amazing, but we would all be happy with a little $5 trophy that you won the regular-season championship.
“So a T-shirt would be nice — anything. You could even work up an argument that there’s some type of bonus points that could be awarded to the regular-season champion that carries over, or something in the seed process, or pit road pick — I don’t know. You dream up something there that would be nice for the champion.”