For Jimmie Johnson, Dover represents both a place where he has had a lot of success over the years, but has also been his Achilles’ heel recently. With elimination from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup still a possibility on Sunday, Johnson heads into the Citizen Soldier 400 hoping luck is on his side this time around and he’ll be able to move on to the Round of 12 by the time the checkered flag flies.
This time last year, Johnson looked to be in prime position to move on to the second round of the Chase as he rolled into one of his best tracks on the circuit, but a mechanical failure left him with a 41st place finish, dropping him out of the top-12 in points and eliminating him from the Chase. Likewise, Johnson took over the lead midway through the Dover race in May before a transmission failure on a restart caused an 18 car pileup leading to a 25th place finish.
With the two bad finishes in his last two starts at the track in the back of his mind, Johnson remains optimistic that he’ll be able to run well enough on Sunday to avoid the bad luck and advance.
“I’m excited to be back to my best race track, without a doubt. I think last year shows that you really can’t count on a race track always being kind to a driver or always working in their favor. It’s part of racing. I’ve learned it through many different lessons over my racing career. Last year, I think, kind of showed everybody once again that you just can’t take a race or a track for granted for anybody. We’re back with high hopes. I love being here,” said Johnson.
Despite the bad luck as of late at Dover, odds are that Johnson will be in the mix for the win on Sunday, or at least finish high enough to allow him to move on. In 29 starts, Johnson has 10 wins (most all-time – 2002 sweep, 2005, 2009 sweep, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015), 15 top-five finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, five poles, and an average finish of 9.6.
Johnson currently sits eighth in points and holds an 18 point advantage over 13th place in points and will advance no matter what by finishing 12th with no laps led, 13th with at least one lap led, or 14th with the most laps led if there is a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, Johnson will clinch a Round of 12 berth with a 17th place finish with no laps led, 18th place with at least one lap led, or 19th with the most laps led. Of course, if he wins on Sunday, he will automatically advance to the next round of the Chase.