As a five-time champion of the Cup Series, Jimmie Johnson
didn't really need to make a statement on the track to prove that he is a legitimate title contender in 2012, but he did anyway. Johnson absolutely clobbered the field in last Sunday's Brickyard 400, leading 99 of the 160 laps and winning at Indianapolis for the fourth time. The victory also tied him with his Hendrick Motorsports
teammate Jeff Gordon
for the most career wins at Indianapolis, and suddenly, this year's No. 48 team is starting to look a lot like the one that reeled off five straight championships from 2006 to 2010.
Johnson has been at his best on the big stages, winning the Southern 500 and All-Star Race prior to kissing the bricks. He has traditionally been at his best the closer we get to the Chase, and fantasy owners may want to jump on the bandwagon for a good old late season surge from Johnson. It might not be a bad idea to start as soon as this weekend when the series makes a return trip to Pocono Raceway. After all, Johnson has finished fourth in the last three races at the triangle-shaped track.
While Johnson has basically punched his ticket to the playoffs already, there are plenty of other drivers looking at this weekend's race as a golden opportunity to do the same. With track position and fuel mileage gambling that usually goes on at Pocono, this is one race where a driver can steal away a win with the proper strategy. Former Pocono winners like Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards that are winless in 2012 need a victory just to get into the wild card conversation, while Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch could all use a second win to feel a little more secure about their playoff chances.
Overall, Sunday's race should provide a lot of drama, especially by Pocono's standards. Yes, tough passing conditions and long green flag runs will be still be an issue, but there are a lot of different agendas at work. Between the drivers at the top of the standings that can afford to gamble for wins and a few more bonus points toward the Chase and the drivers outside the top 10 that can't afford not to gamble for wins, it should be interesting to see who ends up celebrating in Victory Lane.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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