NASCAR Dover 2013: Dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t concern Jimmie Johnson

Todd Warshaw

Although Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the opening two rounds of NASCAR’s Chase, Jimmie Johnson remains undeterred as he pursues his sixth championship.

After winning a NASCAR-record five consecutive championships from 2005-10, Jimmie Johnson is still in search of title No. 6 -- which, to him, feels like an "eternity."

Two races into this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup, Johnson has positioned himself well to complete what he describes is his personal championship six-pack.

"I think that the No. 20 and the No. 18 are really coming to the top of their game right now at this point of the year which is good for them" -Jimmie Johnson

He opened the playoffs with a hard-fought fifth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway where he had to overcome assorted mishaps on pit road. Johnson followed that with a fourth-place finish last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and is third in the standings heading into this weekend.

Although he's reeled off consecutive top-fives, Johnson has actually lost ground in the standings. This is because the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch have finished first and second each of the last two weeks, putting him 18 points behind Kenseth and four in arrears of Busch.

It's similar to what happened to Johnson a year ago when he posted two straight runner-ups and a fourth in the first three Chase races, yet still trailed championship leader Brad Keselowski. Keselowski sandwiched a pair of victories around a sixth-place finish.

The consistency of Kenseth, Busch and Johnson has allowed them to noticeably separate themselves from the rest of the Chase field. Despite the appearance of it being a three-man fight for the title, Johnson isn't ready to concede anything with eight weeks still to go.

"I mean it's easy to look at it that way, but I'm not putting my guard down," Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway. "We still have Talladega and a lot of these tracks can take out multiple cars. You have that risk here if something happens you usually take a car or two with you.

"I'm certainly looking forward and there are only two guys that I'm paying attention to right now, so in that mindset, sure you can call it a three-man race. But it's still way too early to count many out yet."

Unlike last year when Hendrick Motorsports was the dominant force in the garage, JGR has asserted itself as the superior team this season. Kenseth and Busch have made 11 combined trips to Victory Lane while Hendrick has won six races (Johnson having four of those with Kasey Kahne accounting for the other two.)

The discrepancy between JGR and Hendrick has not gone unnoticed by Johnson.

More: Dover weather forecast || Kenseth positioned to win second title

"When you peak is very important in our season and I think that the No. 20 (Kenseth) and the No. 18 (Busch) are really coming to the top of their game right now at this point of the year which is good for them," Johnson said. "There is still racing left so I hope this is wrong, but so far our peak was probably about the third mark of the year. I feel like we are trending back up with our two top fives and heading in the right direction, but time will tell how high we rise and where we get to.

"(JGR) have always had good equipment and they have always had fast cars. I really feel like Matt and the relationship that he and his crew chief have and what they have been able to bring to the table has helped elevate Joe Gibbs the next level."

One advantage Johnson would seem to hold this weekend is how strong he has historically ran at Dover. The high-banked one-mile oval is one of his best -- his seven victories have him tied with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most all-time.

"Excited to be here, it's obviously a great race track for the No. 48 team," Johnson said.  "Good time in the year for us to come to a strong track. We will just kind of see what happens."

More from SB Nation:

Complete coverage of the 2013 Sprint Cup Chase

"Rush" more than just a motorsports film

Ryan Blaney happy at Penske, future plans unknown

NASCAR power rankings: Kenseth, Busch, Johnson -- then everyone else

Kenseth wins Loudon, extends Sprint Cup lead

Longform: The good times and hard life of Dick Trickle

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.