CONCORD, N.C. – Question of the week: Which Jimmie Johnson will we see at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
Will it be the overpowering Johnson, whose five victories in six starts between 2003 and 2005 and 18 consecutive Charlotte races led moved many to proclaim the 1.5-mile track “Jimmie’s House?”
Or will it be the Johnson who was 25th in May’s Coca-Cola 600, has a 22.6 average finish since his last Charlotte victory (fall 2009) and counts two DNFs along with a single lap led over his three most starts?
Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 could be pivotal to Johnson’s quest for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship – especially after his finish of 17th at Talladega. He remains second in Chase standings, 14 points behind Brad Keselowski.
Johnson has three victories at Charlotte during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup era but just one – 2009 – in his championship seasons. He’s one of eight consecutive different winners at the track since the fall of 2008.
His Hendrick Motorsports organization has won 17 times at Charlotte – more than double the eight victories by Roush Fenway Racing and Petty Enterprises.
Johnson’s greatest threat could come from a teammate rather than points leader Keselowski. Jeff Gordon has five wins and Kasey Kahne counts four victories – including May’s Coca-Cola 600.
If Johnson’s recent Charlotte fortunes are an aberration, his statistics then dwarf the competition. Johnson owns series-best Driver Rating (111.0), Average Running Position (8.2), Fastest Laps Run (488), Green Flag Speed (176.468), Laps in the Top 15 (4,599/85.6%) and Quality Passes (772).
Johnson also won this year’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, his third.
Teammate Kahne, however, isn’t far behind. His Driver Rating of 97.5 trails only Johnson and Kyle Busch. He’s posted the second most Fastest Laps Run (453) with an average finish of 12.7 – not far behind Johnson’s 11.8.
Johnson has finished 14 times in the top 10 in 22 Charlotte races vs. Kahne’s nine in 17.
Kahne was 12th at Talladega. He lost points to Keselowski but moved up two positions from sixth to fourth to trail by 36.