When asked about the upcoming race at Dover – one of Jimmie Johnson's best tracks – the five-time NASCAR champion said this prior to racing at New Hampshire: "I want to come out of here with the points lead."
Johnson used his second consecutive runner-up result to take over the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead with eight races to go in the Chase. He leads by one point over Chicagoland race winner Brad Keselowski and is seven points ahead of New Hampshire race winner Denny Hamlin.
But with Dover a traditional stumbling point for both Keselowski and Hamlin – each driver counts it among his worst tracks – Johnson is primed to start pulling away next weekend.
"When you get to the Chase, you need to execute on your great tracks and get the results you should there, and then on your tracks that aren't your best, you still have to have good days," Johnson said. "This track's been hit or miss for us over the years, so to come out of here in second, I'm real happy with today."
Unfortunately for those who would prefer not to see Johnson win again, everything so far this season is making it seem like he's the one to beat. Johnson responded to a question about his title hopes by giving a thumbs up and saying, "I feel really good."
"We have tracks that have been great to the 48 for a lot of years; tracks that we were very successful at in the spring events," he said. "The one hanging out there that has me concerned, is the same as everybody else, is Talladega. ... But outside of 'Dega and the unknown there, there's a lot of tracks for this 48 team that I'm very optimistic."
Jeff Gordon said from what he's seen from Johnson so far in the Chase, the 48 team looks to be back in championship form. And that's bad news for everyone else.
"We have seen others make a run at them, but when they are in this kind of zone, they have not been beat," Gordon said. "You know, I think what the 11 did was pretty big today, but he's going to have to do that for eight more weeks."