LONG POND, Pa. – It’s doubtful that Jimmie Johnson has the bitter taste completely out of his mouth. A fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was within his grasp, but all he left the Brickyard with was a runner-up finish and 73 laps led.
Oh, and an even larger points lead, which ballooned to 75 points over second-place Clint Bowyer.
And now Johnson heads to Pocono Raceway, a race track he completely dominated in June during the series’ first trip there. During that event, he led 128 laps and racked up a near-perfect driver rating of 148.1.
Pocono has now joined the likes of Charlotte, Martinsville, Dover, Auto Club and Phoenix among the tracks at which Johnson thrives – almost automatically. The win was his third overall. More recently, Johnson has four top fives in the last five races and six top 10s in the last seven.
He’ll look to become the first driver to sweep Pocono since Denny Hamlin did it as a Sunoco Rookie in 2006. Johnson accomplished the feat in 2004.
Right now, for all intents and purposes, winning is the only thing that matters for Johnson. That 75-point lead will evaporate once the Chase starts and the points are reset. He’s now looking for Chase bonus points
Johnson wants to clinch as early as possible, and it’s something that could happen as early as Watkins Glen in two weeks. Even with a Pocono win, Johnson cannot officially clinch this weekend. There exist mathematical possibilities where Johnson, Matt Kenseth and, say, Kyle Busch fall out of the top 10 and Johnson would be the odd man out of the Wild Card. So as unlikely as that is, it still won’t be official.