With two top-10 showings in the first three Playoff races so far, Jimmie Johnson is proving to himself, to his team, to his fans and to his competitors that even though he didn’t qualify for the Playoffs for the first time in his seven-championship career, he is every bit as determined to finish strong. And win.
Johnson returns to the site of his last victory this week. On June 4, 2017, Johnson celebrated his 83rd career win in Dover’s Victory Lane, having no idea that he would sustain a winless streak ever since.
Dover may be the answer, however. Johnson’s 11 victories on the concrete mile is most all-time. NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison are next with seven wins. In addition to his 11 wins, he has 17 top fives and 24 top 10s in 35 starts – best in the field. He boasts the top Driving Rating (113.3) and has easily led the most laps (3,109).
During an eight-race stretch from 2009-2012, Johnson earned four wins, a runner-up finish and three pole positions in his famous No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. In just those eight races, he led 1,681 laps or 54 percent of total. Five times during that time period, he led at least 200 laps in a race.
He answered that mastery with three victories in five races from 2013-15.
Johnson was 36th in this race last year, but 14th this May. He has finishes of 11th (Las Vegas), 10th (Richmond) and ninth (Charlotte) in the three Playoff races this season. Only five of the current 12 Playoff drivers have a better average finish through the opening three races than Johnson (10.0).
He now trails 17th-place Daniel Suarez by only six points in his quest to be best among non-Playoff drivers – the pair have separated themselves from the rest of the field. Paul Menard is 19th, 70 points behind Johnson.