Jimmie Johnson understands that other teams have been faster this season and he knows that other drivers have won more races and led more laps.
In particular, through 11 races, Joe Gibbs Racing has combined to win five times and led nearly 50 percent of all laps this year. This dominance has been especially prevalent on the intermediate tracks as the three-car team has victories at Las Vegas, Fontana, Texas and Kansas.
And success on these type of tracks usually bodes well come the Chase, where the bulk of the ten-race schedule are ovals 1.5-miles in length.
Yet it is Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsorts team who is atop the Sprint Cup Series standings, holding a robust 44-point lead heading into Saturday's non-points NASCAR All-Star Race.
"They definitely have some speed on the 1.5-mile tracks," Johnson said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "If I were to pick an area we need to improve on, it would be the 1.5-miles. We're not bad. We're still getting good finishes. But we don't have that magic right now. I'm very happy to have this big points lead and would love to lock early as you can imagine."
In a long season defined by peaks and valleys, what often happens is a team will hit on something early forcing other teams to play catch-up. But by the time the Chase rolls around, those teams that were once trailing are now ahead, having found their own formula for success.
When Johnson looks at what JGR has accomplished thus far in 2013, he sees a team that may be peaking too soon.
"I don't know if I'm just making this up for my own good and helping my cause, but I'm glad I'm not peaking-out," he said. "We always point that out about the team that gets on a roll and are they peaking too early. I'm not saying those guys are, but I'm glad we don't have our best stuff right now and we've got some time to get there."