He's Baaaaack! NASCAR Champ Jimmie Johnson Reasserts Himself In 2011 Chase Race

C'mon...did you really think five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was out of Chase contention after two less-than-stellar results?

Let's hope not. Because if you did, you were wrong.

Johnson came back in a big way on Sunday, leading a Dover race-high 157 laps en route to a second-place finish. The Hendrick Motorsports driver jumped up five spots in the point standings and is now in fifth place, 13 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

"Are we out of it?" he asked facetiously after the race. "Last week, I was considered done."

Johnson could have had even more to crow about if he had been able to beat race winner Kurt Busch on the final two restarts. Instead, Busch prevailed and Johnson was left to settle for a runner-up spot.

"I blew it by spinning the tires (on the penultimate restart)," Johnson said. "... And then the next one...I was just trying to time it right when he was going to accelerate – and I didn't time it right."

Busch rejoiced in beating the driver who he called his "arch-nemesis" and said it was the "icing on the cake" in his victory.

Johnson, though, said he viewed Busch as he would any other driver.

"It didn't cross my mind at all," he said. "It was just another guy to race, another car to worry about fighting for the win with."

Clearly, Johnson is going to be a factor over the next seven weeks – as most people had predicted heading into the Chase. Despite a bad run last week at New Hampshire, Johnson cut more than half the deficit to first place on Sunday.

There's still plenty of racing to go.

"We look at (Tony Stewart) and what he did in the first two races, and then the struggles they had today," he said. "I think it speaks to how tough these 10 races are going to be and how you think somebody is on fire and the fire can go out."

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