Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Johnson: ‘I’m Hoping We Heat Up’

By Kelly Crandall (LOUDON, N.H.) – No one looks past six-time and defending champion @JimmieJohnson when it comes to the post-season.

He’s still on the radar when it comes to this year’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup as he tries to earn record-tying title number seven. Except, entering New Hampshire Motor Speedway Johnson sits eighth in points following a 12th place finish last weekend in the Chicagoland opener. Much of the talk, so it seems, has been on Johnson’s teammates, @JeffGordonWeb and @DaleJr., or point leader Brad @Keselowski and even @KevinHarvick.

“Honestly, we’re just plugging along,” Johnson said Friday morning. “We’re running well. We’re hopeful to heat up and find some more speed and be more of a dominant car, especially as the Chase wears on.

“But we’re holding our own right now and I’m looking forward to this track, and certainly next weekend (Dover); my favorite racetrack and probably my best track on the circuit. So, we’re just plugging along.”

The newly turned 39-year-old isn’t shy on admitting they’ve been in this position before. Summer slumps leave many wondering what is wrong with the No. 48 team before the Chase begins. This time around, during the seven-week stretch between Kentucky and Michigan, Johnson had just two top-10 finishes and four outside the top-25, which included three crashes.

None of which necessarily classifies Johnson’s season as being different than any before, but he does acknowledge his team is not where they want to be. Three wins in four weeks (May 25 – June 15) put him into the Chase, though he finished the regular season sixth in points.

“I wish I could explain why teams are good and bad and why it’s so hard to be consistent all year long. But, last year, even though we had a tough end of the regular season, we were in position to win a lot of races,” he said.

“And we did win a bunch during the course of the year. We’ve had one hot spot in the middle of the year this year and we’ve kind of been lukewarm on the other sides. I’m hoping we heat up. I’m hoping we get to that hot spot again.”

Gordon led the standings for the majority of the season and now sits second. Harvick has the most poles and Keselowski the most wins. Johnson, however, sits third behind Keselowski and Harvick in laps led (1,035).

“You look at the No. 4 (Harvick) and look at the No. 2 (Keselowski) and you look at the No. 24 (Gordon) consistently over the year, those guys have been there. It’s the new rules package. Believe me, we’re working our guts out to find the speed and to be that dominant car,” Johnson said.

“But truthfully, we’re not the dominant car right now. We’re a good car. We still have nine weeks to get our act together; especially the way this Chase lays out, if we continue to get the most out of our good car and have a great car at Homestead, if we’re in that position, then we can get seven. But this is a tough industry.

Last season Johnson was fourth at New Hampshire. Of the next nine Chase races, he’s won at each except for the season finale of Homestead.

“We’re working as hard as we can and I’m happy to see my teammates with speed. And then there’s a couple of guys out there that aren’t in our camp that we’re chasing and just trying to out race them,” he said.

“But they’re amazing race teams and drivers, as well.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Path to Championship Unknown Under New Format

By Matt Weaver (JOLIET, Ill.) — On the eve of the inaugural race of the Chase Grid format at Chicagoland Speedway, it now appears as if there are more ways than ever before to win championships in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Prior to the introduction of a playoff, drivers were tasked with consistency over 36 races to win the crown. Victories negated bad results but they were not a requisite to contend for the championship. Consider that @MattKenseth won the 2003 title with only a single victory and a 10.3 average finish, leading NASCAR to adopt a playoff format in the first place.

During the first decade of the Chase, victories were given extra weight and seeding for the playoffs were based on the number of trips to Victory Lane during the regular season. As a result, perennial winners, like @JimmieJohnson, held a major advantage entering the final 10 races of the season.

All told, the near-flawless Johnson and his 48 team won six of the 10 championships during the initial Chase era, mostly due to their ability to win in bulk, having scored 60 wins from 2003-to-2013. But Johnson was one of the first to admit this weekend that the new format could see a driver win the championship without winning a race in the Chase, if not altogether.

“The possibility is real,” Johnson said. “Against the way the whole premise of the Chase has been created and winning is so important, I feel that it’s good to have an opportunity to reward consistency. Let’s be honest: Everything about our sport revolves around consistency. Our races are marathons. We race (36) times a year, and to have it not be represented in our championship, I think would be wrong.”

To Johnson’s point, his teammate and four-time champion, @JeffGordonWeb says that perfection is no longer necessary in the Chase for the Championship.

“I think in the third round, you’re going to need to be near-perfect but you definitely don’t have to have 10 perfect races now,” Gordon said. “The third round and at Homestead, you’ll have to be at your absolute best. But the other ones? You can slip a little bit here and there if you’re strong enough to claw your way back.

“It’s definitely a different championship than we’ve seen in different years.”

The championship standings will reset after each round for the drivers that advance, meaning a team that just barely moves on would have an equal shot at again advancing as the top-seed from the bracket they just advanced from. As a result, it’s conceivable that a still winless Chaser, like Kenseth, could still top-10 himself into the championship race at Homestead and go all the way, a fact that he acknowledges.

“I still think this championship will require you to execute and be at the top of your game,” Kenseth said. “I feel like we need to win because of the momentum and confidence it will give us but also because that’s the key to advancing. So do we have to win? No. But we didn’t necessarily have to win before either.

The 2011 champion and number one seed in the Chase, Brad Keselowski, perhaps summed it up best.

“There are a lot of different ways you can win with this format,” he said. “I don’t think there’s one way you can win and I don’t think there’s one way you can lose. (Becoming champion without winning a race) is certainly one way you can win but it’s not the only way.”

More from Popular Speed

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Chase Format Creates Bigger Challenge for Johnson’s 7th Title Bid

By Corey Hodges – After extreme dehydration caused @JimmieJohnson to seek medical attention following Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the six-time champion said Tuesday it was a helmet cooling system malfunction. The end result a post-race collapse and subsequent IV treatment.

But while Johnson’s perennial championship team is switching back to a tired and true cooling system, the driver himself is hoping that’s the only thing in need of cooling off as the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins in earnest this weekend in Chicago.

Following a five-race stretch of poor finishes in July and early August (no better than 14th place from the July 5th event at Daytona to the August 10th race at Watkins Glen), Johnson has recently begun to turn his typical summer slump around. He heads to the Windy City fresh off three-straight top-10 finishes.

But while back-to-back top-five efforts at Bristol and Atlanta aren’t wholly surprising considering Johnson’s prowess at both facilities, an eighth place run last Saturday night at Richmond does point to a rise in performance. After all, this same driver hadn’t scored a top-10 in the Commonwealth of Virginia since April of 2012 (sixth place).

But Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond aren’t in the Chase.

Luckily for Johnson, the tracks that do make up the final 10-race dash to the championship have largely remained unchanged since 2011 when Chicagoland Speedway was awarded the playoff opener.

In fact, dating back to Johnson’s first title in 2006 the only changes in Chase track venues have been the eliminations of both the Atlanta and California stops and the date swapping of Talladega Superspeedway.

For Johnson, that familiar mix means year-in and year-out title contention.

But for his competition, now stronger than ever thanks to a new 16-driver playoff field, that mix is also music to their proverbial ears. Also competing for the title this season is Johnson’s three Hendrick Motorsports teammates, @JeffGordonWeb, @DaleJr and most recent winner @KaseyKahne.

While fellow powerhouses Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske bring a combined five drivers into the playoffs with race and championship winning experience, Johnson’s toughest competition may very well come from within his own shop.

Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. are both enjoying one of the best seasons of their respective careers as each earned three regular season victories. All came at a variety of horsepower-dependent facilities – Pocono, Indianapolis and Michigan to name a few.

Raw speed and reliability have never been an issue for Hendrick Motorsports this season.

Case in point: Johnson’s three wins at Charlotte (May), Dover and Michigan (June).

All three were overwhelmingly dominating performances as he led 164 laps at Charlotte and 272 of 400 circuits at Dover the following week. The Michigan win saw Johnson lead 39 laps en route to his first career victory at the track.

Wins mean more than ever this time around as the Chase is broken up into three three-race segments and one final four-driver finale at Homestead-Miami. A win in any of the first three segments automatically advances a driver to the next. But a win in the final segment advances a driver to a title.

So what do all of these numbers and scenarios mean?

Simply put, it translates into another Chase that Johnson could very well dictate if his regular season performance carries over into the playoffs.

2012 champion Brad @Keselowski (series-leading four wins in the regular season) heads to Chicago with a three-point advantage in his column and will look to prove a point early on at one of five intermediate tracks that make up the Chase.

It’s been said that to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, a team must be able to produce at the “cookie-cutter” tracks that dominate the circuit. Johnson’s done that before. Now he has to do it again, this time with an historic seventh title on the line.

He’s always been calm under pressure. Now he hopes to be “cool” under it as well.

EMAIL COREY AT corey.hodges@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The_CoreyHodges

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Hendrick Teammates Slam at Sonoma, Call it Racing

By Matt Weaver — Hendrick Motorsport teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson left Sonoma Raceway first and second in the championship standings and ran just as close to each other on the track during Sunday’s Toyota Save Mart 350.

The two made contact during several points of the race and appeared noticeably aggravated with each other. Tony Stewart joined the fray in the closing laps and three champions, with a combined 13 titles between them, started bouncing off each other.

That’s where the most damage was done, Stewart rear-ending Johnson, sending his No. 48 into the back of Gordon as the four-time champion tried to escape. Gordon went on to finish second but Johnson was forced to settle for seventh as the contact with Stewart damaged his handling.

Johnson was satisfied with yet another top-10 and has put the volatile road course in his rear-view mirror.

“We had a great car but just got drilled by the (Stewart) and my steering was off from there,” Johnson said. “We had a great car and the guys with fresher tires got us at the end.”

Gordon had not seen a replay of the contact with Johnson at the time of the post-race press conference but believes it was just a case of hard racing on a temperamental road course. He admitted that he was upset when Johnson hit him and that’s why he retaliated, not knowing that Stewart had triggered the ordeal.

“At the moment you’re just mad that it happened so I took it out on my right front fender but did more damage to my car than it did to his. Then I calmed down and we just went back to racing and I was able to get him. He kind of got into it with whomever, Ambrose in front of him, and I got a run on him, but I was able to make a clean pass.

“I don’t like to make judgment until you see the video but we raced hard and we had a great race and banged with a bunch of guys, but I thought it was all just in good racing.”

Gordon leads Johnson by 25 points in the standings but Johnson leads all Sprint Cup drivers with three victories compared to Gordon’s one. The six-time and defending champion currently holds the provisional top seed in the Chase Grid.

Categories
Editorial

Instant Reactions: Michigan

So this is where it begins — the march to seven Sprint Cup Series championships and immortality, the crowning of Jimmie Johnson as the greatest of all-time.

The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet finally knocked Michigan off their collective bucket list, winning at the two-mile superspeedway for the first time since arriving in the sport back in 2001. This leaves Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland and Homestead as the last remaining standouts for Johnson to conquer.

Sunday also marked three wins over the past four races for Johnson, a driver that many fans and pundits had written off and doomed to obscurity after he began the year with 11 straight winless starts. Johnson responded with a victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and repeat performances at Dover and now Michigan.

As a result, he’s risen from fringe contender status to likely final four favorite in the championship race this November at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Race Results: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan

The Quicken Loans 400 was quite the quirky race by modern NASCAR standards, decided not by late race cautions, restarts and shenanigans but by a long green flag run, pace and pit strategy. In that regard, Michigan felt like a throwback kind of race and was quite enjoyable down to the finish. Credit goes to NASCAR for not throwing out the caution either.

They had the perfect opportunity to do so when Austin Dillon cut a tire in the closing laps and kept the pole in the starter’s metaphorical pocket.

While the No. 48 team was always going to have the advantage off pit road, it was interesting to watch how those who took just a splash of fuel or just two tires were going to cycle back amongst the leaders. That especially held true for Kevin Harvick, who had the fastest car, but just couldn’t make a run at Johnson in the closing laps.

Clean air and track position wins out over speed again as in true NASCAR fashion, it isn’t always the fastest cars that wins races but rather the the team effort that executes a sound strategy, is able to navigate dirty air and work in traffic –all stalwarts of Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire No. 48 team.

Chase Grid: Current Standings after Michigan

And while anything can happen in the new-look Chase for the Championship, it seems a forgone conclusion that Johnson will be one of the four finalists in Miami — but who will join him? His teammate and current championship leader Jeff Gordon seems like a solid bet, with the No. 24 continuing to roll off top-10s every week. That sort of consistency will see him advance even if he can’t win during the Chase, something that really shouldn’t be an issue for the No. 24 anyway.

This is the best that Gordon has looked since 2007 and making his a real solid bet for South Beach.

Harvick and Brad Keselowski cemented their places as championship favorites at Michigan as well with podium finishes behind Johnson. Harvick has arguably had the fastest car all year long and appears beyond the consistency issues that plagued him during the first half of the regular season.

Keselowski is fresh off four straight top-10 finishes and has finished second or third three weeks in a row. That makes him a solid bet to make a strong run at Homestead as well.

The obvious omission here is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who also had another strong run at Michigan. Given his performance during the Chase last season, it’s a near-certainty that the No. 88 team will be in the mix all the way through the fall as well. The same can almost be said of Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth as well.

At the near-halfway point of the season, the new championship format has added a lot of intrigue and excitement. But despite all the changes, there remains one constant — Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team.

As always, the path to greatness goes through the Six Pack.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus Riding Wave of Positive Momentum

By Matt Weaver (DOVER, Del.) For a team that many in the sport started to question a month ago, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team are sitting pretty following back-to-back victories at Charlotte and Dover.

It wasn’t that likely but prior to Johnson’s breakthrough victory in the Coca-Cola 600, a notion could be entertained that Johnson could miss the Chase for the Championship. Prior to his victory, nine others had won a race. And while it was unlikely that the 16 threshold would be met without Johnson, the chatter had begun.

But a month and two victories later, Johnson and Knaus are all but guaranteed a spot in the new-look championship format and the duo are seemingly the most care-free unit in the garage. Knaus, particularly, has looked more jovial in the past few months and he agreed that there was something to that on Sunday after the race.

“Quite honestly I’m at the best point in my life,” Knaus said after the race. “I’ve been very fortunate to have been in this sport for a long time. I’ve seen it grow and change and it’s been a weird circuitous route to get to where we are now, but quite honestly, I’ve never been happier in my life with my personal life, my performance at the racetrack, what we’ve got going on, and Jimmie has helped a lot with that.

“So has Mr. Hendrick as far as making me understand that I’ve got to take time away from the facility and understand that there’s life outside of motorsports.”

A large part of that has been his girlfriend, Brooke. But age and perspective has seemingly taught him that there is more to life than the office.

“I’ve tried for a long time to deny that fact but I’m really, really enjoying it all the way around,” Knaus said. “It’s fun. We’re going back to Charlotte tonight and we’re heading up to Loudon tomorrow evening, and then we go race Pocono and go we go back home from Pocono and then we head out to Chicago to tire test the week after that. It’s busy as ever, but we’re in a good spot right now. Everything is great.”

The good vibes have extended to the driver too as Johnson is feeling confident about the summer stretch that includes many of his best tracks, like Pocono, Michigan and Indianapolis. The positive energy has the dynamic duo looking towards chasing the historic seventh championship.

“We can get on a roll,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some good tracks ahead for us. I think tracks really build momentum for teams and drivers — and going to Charlotte is a great track — here is a great track for us, Pocono next weekend is Chad’s favorite racetrack, and I think you can look ahead at the summer months and see who historically runs well at different tracks and kind of pick your favorites.

“It certainly has been that way for us. The tracks we’ve been bad at, we’ve gone there and been embarrassed by our performance, and then the tracks that are good to us still have been good to us.”

The No. 48 is back — not that they were ever really gone.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Drivers Largely Uninterested in Running Indy 500

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, Ala.) — Could the changes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format and possible success by Kurt Busch in the Indianapolis 500 entice more Stock Car drivers to try their hands at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Not so fast says six-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson who says that stock car drivers have always had the opportunity to attempt the May double but have ignored it largely out of apathy to open-wheel and Indy car style racing.

“I think the opportunity has been there and I’m not sure that a lot of stock car drivers have the desire to run open-wheel,” Johnson said. “That’s probably been the limiting factor. I know that at one point in time, manufacturers had supplier issues that prevented me from going. You can certainly get the sponsors and people to get everything approved.”

Johnson had long expressed an interest in competing in the Indy 500 and says the possibility remained strong up until he and his wife, Chandra, had children.

“In my situation, I have a wife that would have to approve me going to Indy,” Johnson said. “We had a deal that prior to having children, I could. And I didn’t get my opportunity before having kids.”

Johnson also says that the start times for the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 just make it especially difficult to run both races on one day. Sunday May 25 will be the busiest day of racing in North America with the Indy 500 starting at Noon and the Charlotte NASCAR race starting at 6 p.m.

“The start time was the big problem there,” Johnson said. “You couldn’t physically do both the way the start times worked out. I hope that encourages others. I think as a race fan, I look forward to that weekend to see who does the double and watch that much racing from Monaco all the way through to the NASCAR event.”

Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, cut his teeth in the competitive USAC open-wheel environment and always coveted a chance to compete in the Indianapolis 500. But his career took him towards full-bodied stock cars instead and now, Kahne believes there are just too many variables that work against Sprint Cup drivers who would want to compete amongst the fastest 33.

“I think it all kind of depends on where you’re at with the Sprint Cup Series, how you feel about it, what you’ve done in the Cup Series and how your sponsor and owner feel about it,” Kahne told Popular Speed on Friday. “There are so many things that would have to line up to do both races. I’m looking forward to watching Kurt.”

Kahne explained that he was always a fan of watching drivers like John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon attempt to run the double and believes that Kurt Busch has a legitimate shot to contend.

“I think it’s going to be great. He’s going to do a real good job in both races,” Kahne said. “You know, that’s kind of a dream of mine at times was to try to do the double and now to see Kurt do it would be pretty awesome.”

Joey Logano drives for Team Penske, one of the elite three organizations in the IndyCar Series, for their NASCAR operation. He doesn’t see a scenario, at least right now, where he would want to make that jump and try racing an IndyCar.

“Not in the near future,” Logano told Popular Speed. “I don’t see myself doing it. I won’t say never but not right now. It would be a distraction from what I’m trying to do on the Sprint Cup side and focusing on something that I may not even be good at.”

So unless Busch has overwhelming success and opens the floodgates, he may be the last active Cup driver for a while to attempt the Indianapolis 500. Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse have left the door open but the same door is seemingly shut and locked amongst current veterans not named, ‘Busch.’

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Gordon Silently Leads Standings Entering Southern 500

By Matt Weaver (DARLINGTON, S.C.) — Don’t look now but @JeffGordonWeb is suddenly the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship leader.

Sure that doesn’t carry the same weight as it did prior to the change in championship formats but it’s a remarkable return to form for the four-time NASCAR champion who has largely struggled the past two seasons. During that time span, a new crop of stars have all but taken his place a top the sport that he once dominated with seeming ease.

Sure Gordon has won races and continued to make the Chase but the once feared No. 24 has been largely relegated to a bit player. He frequently runs near the top-10 and has squandered many of his best races due to bad restarts, accidents or pit road mistakes.

But the Gordon of 2014 looks awfully familiar, having the same pace and performance that he once occupied for a decade stretch from 1996-2007.

And while Gordon is not amongst the seven different winners that have won the first seven races of this season, he has to be considered one of the favorites coming into one of his all-time favorite events — the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Gordon is the career wins leader at the egg-shaped superspeedway with seven wins and an 11.55 average finish. It wouldn’t be a shock at all for Gordon to earn a winner’s sticker on Saturday night at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.

“Success always starts with the race team and the race car and I’ve always had good ones here,” Gordon said. “Another key to success at Darlington is being able to push the limits of the car and the track and keeping it on that edge without going over.

“At Darlington, it’s very easy for us to go over the edge.”

The No. 24 team gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season, earning their way (albeit under dubious circumstances) into the Chase. They parlayed that into contention late into the year and winning at Martinsville.

The momentum has not vanished as Gordon leads the standings and the tour with an average finish of 7.4. At this point over each of the past three seasons, Gordon wasn’t even in the top-10 and had to rally to make the Chase in each of those.

Jimmie Johnson has been Gordon’s friend and teammate since 2001 and says that his leadership at Hendrick Motorsports through the tougher stretches is the key to his longevity.

“I’ve always admired his ability outside of the car to continue to lead his team and search for that feeling inside his car,” Johnson said. “And that helps me too. We run through stretches where we don’t have speed in our car and I look around at my peers, and Jeff being one of them, and how he handles that situation and he has confident in his abilities inside the race car and continues challenging guys to find that feel.

“I’m very happy for the success that the No. 24 has had this year and I couldn’t be more proud.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson Grabs Chase Lead with Dominant Win at Texas

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) FORT WORTH, Tex. – Jimmie Johnson finished three positions ahead of Matt Kenseth in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, breaking a tie for the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but — make no mistake — Johnson’s performance amounted to a brutal bludgeoning of Kenseth’s and the rest of the opposition.

Kenseth hurt his own cause with a pit-road speeding penalty, but not even a perfect day on pit road likely would have overcome the dominance of the five-time champion, who led 255 of 334 laps en route to his third victory at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth of the season and the 66th of his career.

With two races left in the Chase, Johnson heads to next Sunday’s event at Phoenix with a seven-point lead over Kenseth, who rallied from the speeding penalty he incurred on Lap 173 to finish fourth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran second, 4.390 seconds behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Joey Logano came home third.

Johnson is the first back-to-back winner of the fall race at Texas since the race became part of the Chase in 2005. Johnson also tied Carl Edwards for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at the 1.5-mile track.

Kasey Kahne finished fifth, followed by Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.

The race was a disaster for Jeff Gordon, who entered the event third in the standings but blew a tire, hit the wall on Lap 74, finished 38th and fell out of contention for a possible fifth title.

Categories
Editorial NASCAR Cup Series

Johnson and Knaus “The Dynamic Duo”

In the world of superhero animation you have a number of dynamic duos, with the most famous of them all being Batman and Robin; otherwise, known as the “Caped Crusaders.”

Switching gears to the world of NASCAR, the Cup series has definitely had its share of winning dynamic duos to include championship pairings such as: Richard Petty/Dale Inman, Dale Earnhardt/Kirk Shelmerdine and Jeff Gordon/Ray Everham – just to name a few.

Over a consecutive five-year span, from 2006  to 2010, there was one team who performed in a dominating, historic fashion. They battled hard and repeatedly took home the coveted trophy, after the checkered flag waved, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

I am sure that without me saying another word you know exactly which driver and crew chief combination I’ve been alluding to because they are one of the most talked about teams in and out of the garage area. Without a doubt, they are both famous and infamous for a number of reasons – historic and controversial.

Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Crew Chief Chad Knaus have their share of folks who are diehard fans and loyal supporters. Of course, on the flip side of the coin, there are those who would rather see the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team performing in subpar fashion every week.

Despite all of that, there is no denying that this driver and crew chief combination has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the track. Granted, the team was dethroned for the past two years with three-time champion Tony Stewart and last year’s champion Brad Keselowski taking home the prized trophy.

However, in 2013, it seems as if the Johnson/Knaus combination have ignited a seemingly low burning flame. Simply put – these guys are on fire!

With approximately 13 years of Cup competition under his belt, Jimmie Johnson has grown to become a phenomenal talent. Statistics that include 64 wins in 41

Have they had some challenges and questionable moments? Yes. Have they always had a perfect race? No.8 races, 174 top 5s, 261 top 10s, 30 poles along with 14,876 laps led and five championships – need I say more? Crew Chief Chad Knaus has been the man to call audibles from the pit box for him over the past 12 years.

One thing that remains certain about this combo is the fact that they are fighters and possess that “eye of the tiger.” It has been proven by their multiple consecutive championships, record-breaking moments and sustaining partnership over the years.

In 2013, it looks like this has been shaping up to be another championship year. Will they make it a six-peat? The absolute possibilities are there for that to become reality. Fast, dominating cars – check. Wins, four – check. Will this Hendrick Motorsports powerhouse capture their sixth championship? Only time will tell because there is still a lot of racing left to do this season.

As always, the determining factors will come down to the how things go in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. One thing that can’t be denied or argued is that Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are a formidable match and most definitely can be deemed the present “Dynamic Duo.”

COMMENT HERE