|With another baby coming, Jimmie needs points.|
With a maximum of 48 points available in a single start, Johnson now has a race in hand over the competition, and openly discussed the possibility of clinching a Chase berth in advance of the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway on September 7.
The Lowe’s Chevrolet driver admitted having a “selfish motivation” for eyeing that early clinch. With wife Chandra expecting the couple’s second child in September, Johnson said he is pushing hard to build enough margin to miss a race, if necessary.
“If Chandi goes into labor early, I don't have to worry about Richmond,” admitted Johnson after Sunday’s Pocono win, his third Sprint Cup victory of the season. “That is what I'm working so hard for. I always work hard anyway, but it sure takes some pressure off if we lock early and don't have to worry about Richmond.”
After claiming his ninth Top-10 finish in 14 starts this year, Johnson said he remains keenly aware of who his main challengers will be for the 2013 championship.
|Johnson and Knaus have "clarity."|
“(If you) look at stats -- who has gained the most points in the last 10 races and things like that -- it's something we pay close attention to. And right now, I think the 20 (Matt Kenseth) and Brad Keselowski are starting to heat up a little bit. The 99 (Carl Edwards) is showing some strength. Those are the guys I've got a close eye on right now, just trying to make sure we're gaining points on them. If we're doing that, we're doing our job, even though the gap might change and look more dramatic at the top right now.
“We've got to keep a good eye on the past five races… to be sure we're the ones earning the most points.”
Johnson admitted that he still feels the sting of last weekend’s missed opportunity at Dover, where an overaggressive late restart saw him black-flagged by NASCAR en route to a disappointing, 17th-place finish. Late in Sunday’s race, he claims to have considered copying the “flopping” restart utilized by leader Juan Pablo Montoya at Dover, choosing not to do so only because it would have victimized teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
“I wanted to prove a point and show everybody what could happen in that restart zone, but I couldn't do it to a teammate,” said Johnson. “I just couldn’t. So I'll save that for another day and prove my point even more.”
He also served fair warning that he and crew chief Chad Knaus have developed a comfort level with the new, Gen-6 race car that few – if any – of his competitors seem to enjoy at present.
“I feel like we have some clarity right now in what the car likes and what it wants” he said. “You work on your stuff; you test and you race and you build some theories. That's all we do -- week in and week out – is learn why the car is tight, or why it's loose. Sometimes your theories play out, and you're smart and you're here in Victory Lane. Other times, they don't.
“I feel like we have a clearer vision now of what this Gen‑6 car wants and we're getting smarter and smarter with it. And that leads into stretches where you can click off the wins and the finishes.
“Regardless if it's a short track, big track or even a superspeedway, we have clarity right now. And as long as we can keep it, we'll be in good shape.”
For the record, that’s bad news for the competition.