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Johnson’s foes lurking, need a repeat of Texas

The Sprint Cup heads for Phoenix, with Jimmie Johnson's rivals hoping for more bad luck for the championship leader
The sight of Jimmie Johnson's smashed and steaming car sitting near the inside wall at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday should have been raw meat to the eyes of the dwindling few who still have shots at winning this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

It should have plucked their predatory gene and caused them to jump like wild boars on Bambi. But about all that Johnson's rare moment of misfortune did was leave the three or four Chase drivers closest behind him hoping that it happens again. Preferably twice in the next two races.

When, after the Texas race, Mark Martin said, “There's two races left, you never know what's going to happen”, he undoubtedly meant just that: Johnson needs to run into trouble and preferably in this weekend's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, to keep the door open for others.

Good luck with the bad-luck thing at PIR for Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart — the four guys who are within 200 points of Johnson — because on paper, the desert mile is a Jimmie Zone.

Said Johnson this week, “I would say that looking at the schedule, the best track remaining for us would be PIR.”

Ouch.

Johnson's numbers there have to be viewed as disheartening for those who think the scene of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus sitting at the lead table at the postseason banquet is getting old.

Johnson has three victories at Phoenix. That is not only best among the twelve Chase drivers, it is best among all active drivers. Heck, it's best among all drivers period at the track, which began hosting Cup races in 1988.

The numbers only get more grim from there for the Chasers: Johnson's average finish is 5.4 in his twelve starts, and his 506 laps led is third best among active drivers.

Here is the worst of the horrible news for the anti-Johnson and pro-exciting-conclusion-to-the-Chase folks: the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy has been running at the end of every race at Phoenix.

That's right, no DNFs.

“Going back to Phoenix is exciting for us,” Johnson said. “It's one of the tracks ... that I feel we can get a victory at and hopefully make some more cool things take place in the points.”

The four drivers who have any chance of catching Johnson would rather have the cool things happen to them.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
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Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, waves to fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, picks up the victory flag Sunday, May 3, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Earnhardt, Jr. is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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