Jimmie Johnson’s six Sprint Cup championships put him in a class by himself when it comes to the rest of the field that takes the green flag each weekend to begin a Cup race. He trails only Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s seven titles in the history of the sport and this past weekend at Dover International Speedway he also joined another elite list of drivers when it comes to dominating at one particular track.
Dover more than lives up to its name as the Monster Mile as most drivers will agree that it is the most physically demanding track that they visit each season. The high-banked one-mile oval is one of only two all-concrete racing surfaces on the schedule with the other being Bristol Motor Speedway.
The banked turns are very tight coming off short straights that subject every driver to a very dramatic G-load going both in and out of each turn. These same demands to which the driver is subjected are also the same demands that makes it so tough on a crew chief when he tries to set his car up for 400 laps.
This is the one track where the field is quickly separated into those drivers that will eventually have a chance to run for the win and those drivers that soon find themselves in a fight just to stay on the lead lap. Since the track is an all-concrete surface it is not as heat sensitive as the asphalt tracks, but the hard surface does build up a tremendous amount of rubber that can make it extremely slick in the later half of the event.
Saying that Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus have figured out Dover and all of its unusual demands is a little bit of an understatement. They not only have it figured out, they all but own the track as the pair has dominated the track like very few in the history of the sport.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver has made 27 starts at the track and the win on Sunday was his 10th to go along with 20 top- 10 Dover finishes. During this remarkable steak, Johnson has led 2,999 laps on his way to becoming only the fifth driver in Sprint Cup Series history to have 10 or more wins at a single track. He now joins Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers to reach such a dominating level at one track.
The win was the 74th of his career that now spans 484 starts that leaves him in eighth place on the all-time win list, only two races behind Dale Earnhardt Sr. in seventh. The only other active driver on the all-time list ahead of him is his teammate Jeff Gordon in third with 92 trips to victory lane.
PIT NOTES: Johnson also leads all drivers this season with four wins and if you want to know how the wins position him to record his eighth series title all you have to do is look at the tracks where the wins took place. The wins have come at Atlanta, Texas, Kansas and Dover.
The Chase’s 10-race schedule that will eventually crown this season’s champion. The Chase is divided into three rounds of three races each before the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami, with each of the rounds being used to eliminate four drivers. Johnson’s three Chase track wins are equally spread out between the three rounds giving him at least one track in each elimination round where he will automatically be a heavy favorite for the win.
Just like any other team that has already notched a win this season, Johnson and Knaus can continue to experiment with their setups and make calls during a race without having to worry about making the Chase. The pair also should enter the first round of the Chase as the leader in points as all 16 drivers that make the field will have their points reset to 2,000 and each driver will be awarded three additional bonus points for each win posted during the first 26 races of the season.
. Race Preview Axalta “We Paint Winners”
Event: 400 Track: Pocono Raceway (2.5 mile tri-oval, Turn 1 banked 14o, Turn 2 banked 8o, Turn 3 banked 6o) Date: June 7, 1 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Dale Earnhardt Jr.