Stats & Info: Jimmie Johnson
Here are the projections for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Martinsville. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a .526-mile oval short track) and time of year.
Kevin Harvick improved his streak to eight consecutive top-two finishes after passing teammate Kurt Busch for second place last week at California. Harvick has tied the fifth-longest such streak in NASCAR Cup Series history. Only Richard Petty has had a longer streak, the most recent of which came in 1975 (a record 11 straight). In NASCAR’s modern era (since 1972), there has been only two streaks of at least eight straight top-two finishes: Harvick’s current run and Richard Petty’s record 11 straight in 1975. Harvick has actually led a higher percentage of laps during his current run than Petty did during his. However, Harvick has traditionally struggled at Martinsville. In 27 starts, he has just three top-five finishes with an average finish of 16.4.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the most recent Cup race at Martinsville, but it’s Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson who are among the best all-time at the track, with each winning there eight times. Gordon has never won nine races at a single track, and Johnson is looking to become the sixth driver to win at least nine times at multiple tracks (he has also done so at Dover).
A fifth Hendrick Motorsports driver will be on the track Sunday, as Chase Elliott will make his Sprint Cup Series debut. Elliott is the defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and the only teenager to win a title in NASCAR National Touring Series history. If Elliott finishes poorly, it’s not a big cause for concern. Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon wrecked in their Cup Series debuts driving for Hendrick Motorsports and finished outside the top 30.
Three drivers have started this season with five straight top 10s. From 2011-14, no driver started a season with six straight top 10s, and it has happened only twice in the past 22 seasons. Most notably, Martin Truex Jr. has started with five top-10s in a row. He has already equaled his last season totals of one top-five and five top-10s.
Jimmie Johnson has had unprecedented success at Dover, winning a Series-high nine races there, including two in a row and six of the last 11.
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Dover. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 1-mile oval) and time of year.
• Jimmie Johnson will be the driver to watch this Sunday at Dover. In the past 11 starts there, Johnson has won six of them, while no other driver has won more than once. His nine wins there are most in series history and his most at any track, and since the start of 2009, Johnson has led 2,339 of 4,400 laps at Dover, good for over half (53 percent). Johnson’s ninth win at the track came earlier this year, matching the most by any team here aside from his team, Hendrick.
• Kevin Harvick could also be a strong contender at the Monster Mile. Harvick has been up front often lately, leading 32 percent of laps in this year’s Chase, the highest percentage of any Chaser. Harvick can ensure he advances to the Contender Round with a 34th-place finish, regardless of what anyone else does. He can also finish worse and advance, but it depends on where other drivers finish.
• We will very likely be seeing a 2014 Chaser claim Dover this weekend, meaning someone could secure a place in the Contender Round automatically using the win provision. Nine of the 10 Dover winners during the Chase era are also 2014 Chase drivers, the lone exception being Jeff Burton in 2006. What's more, the Chase edition at Dover has been won by a Chaser in all 10 seasons.
Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR/Getty Images
According to projections Jimmy Johnson is favored to claim his fourth checkered flag of the season at Chicagoland.
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 1.5-mile tri-oval speedway) and time of year.
• The Chase will have a new look when it rolls into Chicago this weekend. This year, 16 drivers will compete in four rounds with three races in each, with the bottom four drivers in the standings getting eliminated after the third event of that round. The final round in Miami will see the final four drivers vying for the championship (best finish wins).
• Jimmie Johnson enters as the defending champion, and he will likely be in contention towards the end yet again. Johnson is going for a seventh championship, which would tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all-time. He is the only driver to appear in all 11 Chases and his 24 Chase wins are more than double that of the second-place driver.
• We could very well see a first-time champion crowned this season, as 11 of the 16 contenders have never won a Cup championship. Kevin Harvick has come close lately, finishing third in the standings three of the previous four years. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle have all finished runner-up in pursuit of their first championship during the Chase era.
• The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to ESPN with the Brickyard 400. Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon will be looking for their fifth win at Indy, which would tie them with Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher for the most wins at the track in major races. However, Johnson has finished 42nd in each of the past two races. In his first 452 career Sprint Cup Series starts, he finished 42nd just twice. Indianapolis could be a good place to break that slump, though, as he’s won four of the past eight Brickyard 400s.
• In the first 16 runnings of this race, every driver who won entered this race in the top 10 in points -- with the lowest driver in points being Jeff Gordon in 1994 (10th). However, in three of the past four years, the driver who won this race entered 18th or lower in points, including Ryan Newman last year, who entered in 19th.
• Both Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya will compete in this race after running the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year, finishing sixth and fifth, respectively. They would be the fifth and sixth drivers to run both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year; only Tony Stewart in 1999 finished in the top 10 in both races.
• This race could be a good indicator of who’s going to win the title. In eight of the past 20 Brickyard 400s, the race winner went on to win the championship. Jimmie Johnson did it in three of his six championship seasons, and Jeff Gordon in two of his four title years.
Dozier Mobley/Getty ImagesJeff Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, and has added three more since.
No driver has won the Indianapolis 500 more than four times -- A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser each have four wins in that race. But Johnson and Gordon will look to join Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher, who won the U.S. Grand Prix five times when the race was held at Indy.
With four wins apiece, both Johnson and Gordon have more Brickyard 400 wins than any other team combined in the race. Those two are responsible for all eight of Hendrick Motorsports’ wins in this race, while no other team has more than three.
The teammates will be on the short list of favorites for the race. Gordon is a regular in the top 10, with 16 in 20 Brickyard 400 starts. Johnson has won this race in four of the past eight years, and finished second behind Ryan Newman last year.
Those two don’t just have elite results, but they’ve been among the most dominant drivers in terms of raw speed. Since 2008 at Indianapolis, Johnson has paced the field with 153 fastest laps run, while Gordon is third with 97. From there, it’s a drop, as the fourth-place driver has 49 fastest laps.
Who else should we be watching for Sunday afternoon?
Busch and Montoya make return visit
The driver between Johnson and Gordon in fastest laps run is Juan Pablo Montoya, who will attempt to make the field in a third Team Penske entry this week.
Both Montoya, who finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 earlier this season, and Kurt Busch (who was sixth), will attempt to be the fifth and sixth drivers to run both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season.
Both also have a chance to join Tony Stewart as the only drivers to finish in the top 10 in both races in the same year. Stewart finished ninth in the 1999 Indianapolis 500, and seventh in the same year’s Brickyard 400.
Wider range of winners?
For the first 16 runnings of the Brickyard 400, every winner came from the top 10 in points, with the lowest points position of a winner being 10th, when Jeff Gordon won in 1994 for his second of 89 career wins.
But in the past four seasons, three of the winners entered 18th or lower in points, with Ryan Newman winning last year after entering 19th in the standings.
That being said, 40 percent (eight of 20) of the time this race’s winner has gone on to win the championship that same season.
Gaining on History
Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are each chasing milestones this weekend. Gordon is looking to join Hall of Famers Richard Petty and David Pearson as the only drivers to reach 90 wins, and Johnson is seeking his 70th Cup Series win – a mark only seven drivers in series history have reached.
The duo should be near the front on Sunday, as Gordon looked strong in practice this week (finishing third, third and second) and Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire.
Johnson’s career average finish at Loudon trails only Denny Hamlin among drivers with at least five starts
Spread the Wealth
There have been 12 different winners in the last 12 New Hampshire races, a streak that dates back to 2008. That’s one shy of the Cup Series record for the longest streak without a repeat winner at a track, set at Texas Motor Speedway from 1998 to 2007.
King for a Day
Last week at Daytona, Aric Almirola avoided 16- and 26-car wrecks to become the first Cuban-American to win a Sprint Cup Series race. Almirola snapped a 545-race winless streak in the No. 43 car that Richard Petty made famous.
The first road course race of the year could be an opportunity for a non-familiar name to put themselves in the Chase. In seven of the past nine years, the Sonoma winner was a driver who had not yet won on the season. Our projected winner, Clint Bowyer, has not yet won this season. Bowyer qualified 25th but finished first and second in race trim during practices.
Jimmie Johnson won at Michigan for the first time last week, giving him 69 career victories. With his next win he would become the fourth-youngest to 70 wins, trailing only the top three drivers in wins in series history: Richard Petty, David Pearson and Jeff Gordon.
Speaking of Gordon, he’s finished second at Sonoma in two of the past three years and has eight straight top 10s at the track. Gordon is the series’ all-time leader with nine career road course wins, and his five wins at Sonoma is one shy of Bobby Allison’s record for the most at a single road course.
A driver to keep an eye on is Marcos Ambrose, a two-time road-course winner who’s still looking to break through at Sonoma. Ambrose is 23rd in points, but a win would make him a favorite to make the Chase. Since the start of 2009 Ambrose has been fastest driver on 172 laps in road course races, 106 laps more than anyone else.
Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race.
All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 2.5-mile tri-oval) and time of year.
Can Busch avoid a wreck?
Kurt Busch appears to be the driver to beat on Sunday, that is, if he can keep the car in one piece. Busch has wrecked twice in the last eight races at Pocono (finishing 30th and 33rd), but has finishes of third, seventh, third, second, sixth, and ninth during that span when avoiding a collision.
His car was also dominant this week in pre-race workouts, never finishing worse than ninth in any session.
Johnson going for 3 straight
Jimmie Johnson picked up his second straight win last week at Dover after going winless for the first 11 races of the season. Johnson will now go for his third straight win, which would be his third such streak since 2000 - no other driver has done it even once in that time.
Pocono could be a good track for him to pick up another win, as he led more than half of all laps run there last year.
Pole position is key
Qualifying has been important at Pocono, as each of the last two June races at the track have been won from the pole, with the winner in 2011 starting second (Kurt Busch starts second on Sunday).
In the last 16 Pocono races, polesitters have six wins and 12 finishes in the top three.
Halfway to the Chase
We’re at the halfway point to the Chase, with 10 drivers having won (after 26 races, the top 16 drivers in wins, with points as a tiebreaker, make the Chase).
Of the 10 previous Chase champions, eight of them had a win at this point of the season (only Tony Stewart has been winless), and all were in the top 10 in points.
No. 48 is a front-runner at Dover
Jimmie Johnson broke into the win column last week at Charlotte, and he could be primed for another win at Dover. He’s won a Cup Series-record eight times at Dover after winning last fall’s Chase race, breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. In the last 10 races at Dover, Johnson has led more than half of the laps run and more than 1,300 more than any other driver.
Busch seeks a Dover sweep
Kyle Busch has won the first two NASCAR events at Dover this weekend and will try to complete the sweep on Sunday. He is the only driver to win all three National Touring Series in the same weekend (Bristol in August 2010). Busch should have a very strong car, and had it not been for mediocre showings in the last two practices (22nd and 15th) he would have overtaken Johnson in the projections. It’s splitting hairs between these two cars, as both should be out front most of the day.
Gordon atop points leaderboard
Jeff Gordon continues to lead the traditional points after a seventh-place finish at Charlotte - the sixth straight race he’s led in points. Since winning his last championship in 2001, this is tied for the second-longest span he’s topped the points leaderboard, behind only a 21-race streak in 2007.
Variety of winners
For the first time in the Chase era we’ve had 10 different winners in the 12 races. After 26 races (Dover is the halfway point before the Chase), the top 16 drivers in wins will make up the Chase field. Among the drivers who have yet to win is Matt Kenseth, who led the series with seven wins last season and currently sits second in points.
Biffle streak alive
Although he’s sitting outside the top 10 in points, Greg Biffle could have a record-breaking weekend at Dover by just finishing the race. Biffle has been running at the finish of 84 consecutive races, tying the Cup Series record for most consecutive starts without a DNF, set by Herman Beam from 1961-63.
AP Photo/Autostock/Nigel KinradeJimmie Johnson picked up his record eighth Dover victory last fall.
The win was Johnson’s seventh career victory at Charlotte, breaking a tie with Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for the most all-time at a track that dates back to 1960. In fact, Johnson needed fewer starts to reach seven wins than either Waltrip or Allison needed for their sixth.
Now that Johnson has won once, expect the floodgates to be opened. Because, frightening as it might seem, even though Johnson is the all-time wins leader at Charlotte, he’s even better at the site of this week’s race - Dover.
Johnson is an eight-time winner at the Monster Mile, picking up the eighth victory in last fall’s race there, and subsequently breaking a tie with Allison and Richard Petty for the most career wins there.
Johnson hasn’t just been victorious at Dover, he’s been dominant there. In nine of the last 10 races there, he’s led over 140 laps, including leading 386 of the 800 laps run there last year.
Overall, in the last 10 races at Dover, Johnson’s led 2,067 laps, or more than 1,300 more than any other driver. And for his career, he's led 2,704 laps at Dover, less than 100 away from passing Allison for the track record.
Johnson has been the fastest driver on 797 laps over the last five seasons at Dover, 3.4 times as many as any other driver. His average running position in those 10 races is third. Only one other driver, Kyle Busch, even averages a spot in the top 10.
Johnson’s average driver rating, a NASCAR stat that shows a driver’s total performance based on a litany of statistics, since the start of the 2009 at Dover is a 135.6. In that time, that’s the best mark by any driver at any track.
A win on Sunday could also make Johnson the only active driver with at least nine wins on a track. In fact, in NASCAR Cup Series history, only six drivers have won at least nine times on a single track: Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Waltrip, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Rusty Wallace.
• Projected winner Kevin Harvick has won two of the last three Coca-Cola 600s. Harvick’s projection is influenced heavily by his past history in this race as his car appears to be top-five capable, but not quite elite - he qualified sixth and finished sixth in the final practice.
• Kurt Busch will attempt to become the fourth driver to start both the Indianapolis 500 and the 600-mile race at Charlotte in the same day. John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart have done it before, but only Tony Stewart in 2001 completed all 1,100 miles. It’s important for Busch to make it to Charlotte in time for the start of the race because only the driver who starts a Sprint Cup race receives points for the race.
• Jimmie Johnson is still looking for his first win of the season, and on the surface, Charlotte looks like a good site for that to happen. He’s tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for the most career wins there with six. However, Johnson has just one win in the last 16 Charlotte races, after winning five of the previous six.
• Jeff Gordon leads the points, but it was his win two weeks ago at Kansas that all but locked in his Chase berth. But don’t expect an encore this week, as drivers this season have a 21.6 average finish in the next race following a win, with more DNF’s (three) than top-10 finishes (two).
• In the last points race at Kansas, Danica Patrick finished a career-best seventh, the best Cup finish by a woman since Janet Guthrie finished sixth at Bristol in 1977. However, Patrick has averaged a 32nd-place finish in the races following her previous three best finishes. After her 8th-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500, her only other career top 10, she was 39th the following week at Phoenix after being in a wreck.
Robert Laberge/Getty ImagesKevin Harvick looks to win back-to-back Richmond races.
Here are the projections for Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, prerace on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a ¾-mile D-Oval short track) and time of year.
Kevin Harvick, defending race winner and wins leader this season, is projected to win again Saturday. Harvick has posted a stellar average driver rating of 102 over the last three races at this track while finishing 11th or better each time.
Kyle Busch has won four of the last five NSCS spring races at Richmond. With a win Saturday, he’d join Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty as the only drivers to win at least 30 Cup Series races before turning 30. Despite an excellent track record, Busch finished 19th and 20th in the two practices this week, which slightly reduced his value in the projections (to eighth).
Denny Hamlin is winless this season, but Richmond could be a good place for the Virginia native to pick up his first win. Since the start of the 2008 season, Hamlin has led 1,323 laps at the track, more than twice as many as any other driver.
Jimmie Johnson also remains winless eight races into the season. In each of his six championship seasons, Johnson won within the first eight races of the season. Although he’s a three-time winner at Richmond, his 17.3 career average finish at the track is his worst at any active track. Our method projects Johnson to struggle to crack the top 10, as he finished 40th and 12th here last season.
Expect another different winner
There have been six different winners in each of the Sprint Cup Series races this season -- the first time that’s happened in the Chase era. Only four times in Cup Series history has a season started with seven different winners in a row, most recently in 2003 (nine straight). Our projections this week anticipate that trend continuing, with Greg Biffle picking up his first win of the year.
Expect No. 48 to finish well
Jimmie Johnson, the projected winner in each of the past two races, led more than half the laps in each race but came away winless both times. He had a flat tire while leading inside the final 10 laps at California and was passed for the lead with 11 laps to go at Martinsville but should be good again this week, as he’s won two of the past three races at Texas.
Busch eye smaller gap between wins
Last week at Martinsville, Kurt Busch passed Jimmie Johnson late to pick up his first win since October 2011, snapping an 83-race winless streak. Between his past two NSCS wins, Busch drove for four different teams, starting with Team Penske and finishing up at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Can Junior stay hot?
In six races this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has four top-3 finishes, including a third-place finish last week at Martinsville. In his first five years with Hendrick Motorsports (2008-12), he never had more than five top-3 finishes in a season. Last year he had seven but was held winless.
Make it a weekend
The spring Texas race has been held on Saturday nights in recent years, but instead of competing with the Final Four in Arlington, the track is offering fans a combination ticket package, including tickets to the race, along with Saturday and Monday’s NCAA men’s semifinal and championship games.
ESPN Stats & InformationSixteen drivers were involved in collisions in this race last year, third-most at any non-plate track.
Here are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a .526-mile oval short track) and time of year.
• Last week’s race at California was marred by widespread tire issues - 16 in all - believed to be caused by teams running low air pressures on the bumpy two-mile oval.
Projected race winner Jimmie Johnson was leading with less than 10 laps to go when his left front tire blew out, relegating him to a 19th-place finish.
Tires shouldn’t be the issue on Sunday though, as Martinsville’s cramped quarters have something different in store. Sixteen drivers were involved in collisions in this race last season, with Kurt Busch (DNF) and Dale Earnhardt Jr each wrecking twice.
• Watch out for the Hendrick stable on Sunday: Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne all drive for Hendrick Motorsports, which has won a record 21 NSCS races at Martinsville (the most by any active team at any track).
Hendrick has also won the last three Martinsville races, 1 off the record for consecutive Martinsville wins, last done by Holman-Moody from 1963-65.
• Gordon won last October’s race at Martinsville and Jimmie Johnson won the two before that, giving each eight career wins at the track, tied for the third most all time. Since 2003, they each have 17 top-fives 22 races at the track with an average finish better than fifth.
ESPN Stats & InfoSome of the best drivers could be in trouble Sunday if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
• The Lap 1 leader has never won a Cup race at California in 24 tries. It’s the only lap of the race the eventual winner has never led. In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the pole, but AJ Allmendinger led the first lap.
This trend might continue through Sunday, as polesitters Matt Kenseth (inside) and Brad Keselowski (outside) are projected to finish fourth and 16th, respectively.
• Two of the past three California races have ended with a last-lap pass for the win.
This favors Jimmie Johnson, who owns the fastest average speed late in runs (170.1 mph) and Bristol winner Carl Edwards, who has gained the most positions in the final 10 percent of California Cup races (three per race, 45 total) since 2005.
• Johnson (our projected winner) is the all-time wins leader at California with five -- nobody else has more than three. He’s also the all-time leader in top-five finishes, laps led and average finish.
Johnson finished no worse than seventh in any practice, recorded the second-fastest overall qualifying lap and rolls off third.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled last week at Bristol but remains second in points, with a seventh-place average finish through four races.
Junior has never won at California but finished in the top three in this race each of the past two years.
• Kyle Busch captured Joe Gibbs Racing’s first NSCS California win last year -- his second win at the track.
Busch has led 67 percent of the total laps (356 of 529) in the past three California races, with a second-place average finish during that span.