NASCAR

Johnson the one to beat

Driver Jimmie Johnson, far right
Jimmie Johnson (right) , celebrates with his crew and car owner Rick Hendrick.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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After basically giving away the wins at both Dover and Kentucky, Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the whole No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team once again reminded everyone that they simply don’t get rattled by things. They came out of Daytona last Saturday night with their fourth win of the year.

Jimmie admitted that he was over-thinking this restart deal and was going to relax and just go back to the way he used to do it. It’s clear to me yet again that this No. 48 group has ice water running through their veins. You simply cannot rattle them.

What has to be scary to the other 42 competitors is how they are dominating these races at all different types of tracks. If you think back to the races we’ve run starting at Dover in early June, the only race the No. 48 hasn’t dominated since was the road-course event at Sonoma. You know what, though? They don’t have to worry about a road course in the Chase.

Johnson dominated Dover, which is in the Chase. He dominated this restrictor-plate track here at Daytona and we have a restrictor-plate race in the Chase. They simply do not let things get them down. It doesn’t matter if it’s restart issues, crashes, issues on pit road or engine failures. They have the uncanny ability to simply put it aside and come back the very next week a legitimate threat to win.

If you don’t believe me, simply go look at the record books. Jimmie and his bunch have now won 64 races and, oh yeah, they ran off five consecutive championships. Through all that, I honestly have to say this might be the strongest I have ever seen them. Sure there have been seasons where they won more than four races by this point, but I would have to think long and hard to a season where they have been this dominating all season long.

They were off the mark in 2011 when Tony Stewart took the championship away from Carl Edwards. Even though they didn’t win the championship last year, they definitely came back a lot stronger in 2012. Although they were leading the points going into the last two races last year at Phoenix and Homestead, they had issues at both events that cost them championship No. 6.

We all know the Chase can bring on a whole different complexity. The 2011 Chase and Tony Stewart were a classic example of that, but I honestly believe the No. 48 is poised for a serious run at another championship.

Right now it is very clear to me that if you want to win races in the regular season, well you are going to have to beat the No. 48 no matter where we go. After seeing their dominance this first half of the 2013 season, the same can be said for the championship. If you are going to be the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, you are going to have to beat Jimmie Johnson.

Tagged: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart

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