KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Where Jimmie Johnson is concerned, last week’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Charlotte means more than the end of a 24-race dry spell and a ticket into the Chase’s Round of 8.
Guaranteed to be one of the final eight drivers eligible for the series title this year, Johnson can start to entertain the possibility of a seventh championship that would tie him for the all-time record with two icons of the sport—Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“Yeah it’s definitely more realistic, because we are alive and transferring to the Round of 8,” said Johnson, the only driver to qualify for the Chase every season since the inception of the playoff format in 2004. There is still so much racing between now and then. We’ve had some consistent runs, so definitely building confidence in that.
“The victory is a huge boost. We’re definitely building momentum at the right time. It’s probably later than we would’ve liked, but at least it’s going in the right direction. We’ll see where it goes from here.
Though Johnson won a record five straight titles from 2006 through 2010 and added another in 2013, he has yet to win under the elimination format that debuted in 2014. In fact, he failed to advance beyond the Round of 12 in each of the first two years of the current system.
That all changed at Charlotte.
“We clearly are in that Round of 8, but, man, this Chase… I think some felt like it got off to a calm start. Then last weekend, with half the Chasers having issues in the race (five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse), I think it just shows anything can happen.
“The guys that are living it day in and day out—we don’t take it for granted. I’m certainly not taking it for granted and don’t think I’m in a layup situation for Homestead (the Championship 4 race) by any stretch. We need to make sure we’re part of that final four, and there is a lot of work between now and then.”