By Jared Turner
Will Jimmie Johnson continue Dover dominance this weekend?
It’s not all too often that one driver is an overwhelming favorite to win entering a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend.
Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway is one of those rare occasions.
With a record nine victories at Dover, including two in the past three races at the 1-mile oval, Jimmie Johnson is the oddsmakers’ clear pick to get it done in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
“I absolutely love Dover,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “It is one of my favorite tracks by far. We have run so well there in the past and it’s a great track for the No. 48 team.”
Almost as impressive as his victories is that Johnson has finished in the top 10 in 19 of his 26 starts at The Monster Mile, and has led an astounding 2,976 laps along the way.
Aside from a rough outing in last Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson has been on a roll as of late and leads the series with three victories this year.
All of this taken together bodes extremely well for his chances of delivering a standout performance on Sunday afternoon.
“Jimmie loves Dover,” said Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief for all of his victories at the Delaware track. “We talk about time and time again about how when Jimmie was running his ASA car here at Dover how he took to it immediately, really enjoyed it. So I think that’s part of the reason.”
Asked about the key to his amazing success at Dover, Johnson points to more than just one factor.
“It just fits my style,” the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion said. “I mean, you need a race car that’s loose and turns very strong here to get it done and to be fast on the long haul. I just have to put a lot of weight in that. There’s something, too, with the loading characteristics when you come off the straightaway and land down in the corner that fits with me well, too. I notice that I make up a lot of time on people through that portion of the corner, and then I think the fact that I like a loose race car helps us stay fast for long runs, and those two things together work really well.”
This will be the first trip to Dover for Johnson and everyone else with the Sprint Cup Series’ 2015 rules package, which could level the playing field some.
Then again, Johnson has driven – and dominated – at Dover with more than one rules package through the years.
“Really at the end of the day there is a feel a sensation I look for to get around this racetrack,” said Johnson, who is just three wins away from tying the late Dale Earnhardt’s mark of 76 triumphs on the Sprint Cup Series’ all-time wins list. “We all have a feel and sensation we look for; it’s just if it yields the speed and fits the track. Everything has worked well for me, for Chad, for the team, our equipment; it’s just been a very strong track for us. Over time as things change, I just pay attention to the feeling I’m looking for and we are able to work through whatever challenges are thrown at us with different tires that are brought in and also generations of car.
“This is still the Gen-6 cars, but a different rules package under it. Regardless of change, there are just some tracks that work well for you and you are able to still find that feeling you are looking for regardless of circumstances.”
Regardless of what happens on Sunday, Johnson will likely factor heavily into the outcome.