Jimmie Johnson took advantage of racing at one of his best tracks and held off all challengers on his way to winning the Tums Fast Relief 500 and grabbing the lead in the 2012 “Chase for the Sprint Cup.”
Johnson vaulted over Brad Keselowski, who ended up sixth in the race, and into the top spot in the Sprint Cup Series standings, although only by two points. Clint Bowyer is third, 26 points behind Johnson.
Johnson attacked the track and dueled Kyle Busch during the final stretch of green-flag racing to win the race, at Martinsville Speedway, by less than a half second. Kasey Kahne ran third.
“I’m ecstatic about the win today and ecstatic about the point lead, but this no cakewalk” said Johnson, who is chasing his sixth NASCAR championship. “I feel as focused and prepared as I’ve even been.”
Johnson won his first Sprint Cup title in 2006 and followed it up with another four, from 2007 to 2010, to become the only driver in NASCAR history to win five-consecutive championships. His record at the Martinsville Speedway speaks for itself. In 22 races at the Virginia track, Johnson has won seven times, finished on the podium on five additional occasions and has 19 Top-10 results.
“I think, in order to be champion, the tracks you know you can win at you have to win at,” he said, speculating about the remaining races this season. “With the final three tracks (Texas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway), two of them, if not all three of them, we can see that.”
In total, Johnson has won five of his 47 races at the three tracks and finished in the Top 10 in 35 of those races. His best results have come in Phoenix, where he has four wins and eight-podium finishes.
“The next two races will tell the tale,” Johnson said. “You never know. You got to go race the race. We need every point we can get.”
But, as is the mark of a true champion, Johnson is not about to sit back and cruise his way to the title. With three races remaining in this year’s Chase, the five-time Sprint Cup champion believes he and his team are prepared for the homestretch.
“We’re ready to race under any conditions,” said Johnson. “We have to be the best to be the champions. I think we’re showing we’re in form and ready to do that.”
Round 8 of 10 in the Chase for the Sprint Cupschedule is the AAA Texas 500, in Forth Worth, on Nov. 4.