Jimmie Johnson, we salute your honesty.
On Friday at Auto Club Speedway, Johnson was asked if he and his team felt the need to win a race to essentially qualify themselves for the Chase. After all, it's been an entire one-ninth of the Sprint Cup Series schedule and Johnson and the No. 48 bunch are winless. These are desperate times, right?
“It’s not even close to time yet," Johnson said. "When you look at the stats and you have 16 different winners in a year it’s a pretty rare occurrence. I still think that points are every bit as important as they have been until you get to Homestead. Even when you get into the Chase itself the top guy in points will advance in pretty much every scenario or every scenario, even the final one to race at Homestead. So points are still the focus in what I’m looking at. We have been able to win multiple races a year with a certain mindset. I am not going to chase home runs. I’m looking at a smooth and consistent 26 races and when we get a look at a home run we are going to swing for it. But we are not stepping up to the plate every time trying to hit it out.”
Yes, you read that correctly, the No. 48 team isn't purposely gunning for broke every week in the name of a new playoff format. And why should they? The Lowe's group has been so good throughout Johnson's career that switching approaches would be a desperate and futile change. After all, Johnson has won multiple races in each of his Sprint Cup seasons.
If we were, say, at race 24 and Johnson was winless, perhaps the approach for the six-time champion would change. But there's no need to do so, even as some have gotten caught up in the dust-storm that was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Las Vegas strategy play in thy name of the hallowed 2014 Chase.
But right now, Johnson's talking the sensible talk. The odds of 16 or more race winners is very low based on previous Chase-era history. Points accumulation hasn't gone away nor is it any less important. Johnson knows it. And others certainly do too.
“I absolutely care about points," Johnson said. "I think that it’s a pretty rare situation to have 16 different winners in 26 races. There will be people transferring into the Chase based on points. Even as you look at three races and how many spots are available on the second segment and third segment the point’s leader or the highest person in points without a win is going to transfer. Absolutely points are still very important until Homestead and then it doesn’t matter.”
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