With consecutive wins at Charlotte and Dover, Jimmie Johnson has sent a loud message to the competition about the level of performance of the No. 48 team.
Now essentially secured a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR's defending champion has a different message for the garage, and it's an ominous one heading into Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway.
No longer concerning himself with points racing, Johnson instead is focused exclusively on challenging for wins. He and his team can freely pursue victories via aggressive pit strategy and fuel mileage. It's no different a mindset other drivers who have won this year have incorporated
"We can swing for the fences here, which makes that a lot of fun," Johnson said Friday. "And hopefully I can save gas, which I really don't do a good job of."
2014 Season Review
2014 Season Review
Regardless of any gambles he and crew chief Chad Knaus may employ, Johnson is expected to be among the contenders Sunday. The 2.5-mile triangular shaped track is among his best. He won from Pocono 400 from the pole last year, leading 128 of 160 laps.
"The thing that brings a lot of optimism to our team is this is Chad's favorite race track," Johnson said. "He loves the challenge here of trying to figure out how to get the car to go down those long straightaways and then through three different corners. We're excited and are looking forward to it."
In addition to Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports has also won races in 2014 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Daytona) and Jeff Gordon (Kansas). And having three of its four cars Chase eligible, Hendrick is placing an emphasis on getting Kasey Kahne to Victory Lane.
Accordingly, Hendrick will adjust its testing schedule to aid Kahne's effort. Because if the No. 5 team can score a win it would allow everyone within the organization to prepare exclusively for the Chase. That is a decided advantage for Johnson, who is looking for a record-tying seventh Sprint Cup championship.
"There's an old testing procedure and we can select tracks just for the No. 48 to test at," Johnson said. "It would definitely impact that.
"But as a group, we want all four cars in the Chase. We need to get Kasey a win. That part is still kind of out there. We're three-quarters of the way there to having a full testing plan and focus solely on the Chase. So, hopefully we can get the No. 5 car a win soon and let that go the rest of the way."