Chase Update: Johnson Closing in on Historic Fourth-Straight Championship with Texas Up Next

Jimmie Texas

Following a sixth-place finish after the late-race carnage at Talladega, Jimmie Johnson padded his points lead in the quest for a record fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. With three races remaining in the Chase, it looks like only a Texas-sized problem would keep Johnson from becoming the first driver to four-peat, as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

Johnson leads his second-place teammate Mark Martin by 184 points, and fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon is in third, 192 points behind Johnson. Both drivers would love to dethrone Johnson, as Martin is a four-time series runner-up, and Gordon is seeking a fifth career championship.

Gordon won the April race at Texas, his first win at the track in 12 years of trying. Despite a 20th-place finish at Talladega, Gordon had amassed five consecutive top-five finishes in the Chase.  With his April win, Gordon has seven top fives and nine top 10s in 17 Texas starts, plus the confidence to find his way to Victory Lane there.

But, Johnson has been unstoppable during the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, finishing in the top 10 in all of the first seven races, including three wins (Dover, California and Charlotte), and five top fives. Johnson’s Texas Motor Speedway resume is also stout. In 12 starts he has posted one win, six top fives and nine top 10s, including finishing second to Gordon in the spring.

With his seventh top-10 finish in the seven Chase races, Johnson’s average Chase finish is at 3.4. The dominance has opened up a rather clear path to his historic fourth consecutive championship. If Johnson averages a 10th place finish, or an 11th place finish and at least one lap led in every race, or a 13th place finish and the most laps led in every race – he will clinch the championship no matter what any other driver does.

From the drivers outside of championship contention, a couple could hamper Johnson’s title run. Carl Edwards comes into the Texas event still without a victory this season, which is hard to believe considering Edwards had a series-high nine wins last year, including the fall Texas race. Edwards leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Texas with three after grabbing his first win at the 1.5-mile speedway in 2005 and sweeping both races last season. He finished 10th at Texas earlier this season.

Matt Kenseth has the best Driver Rating at Texas (105.8) and has finished in the top 10 in five straight there. Kenseth also has a Texas victory, which came in 2002.

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