You can win a race any number of ways -- by outrunning the other guy, by wrecking the other guy, by staying upright while the other guy runs into trouble.
Or you can win it by getting so deep into the other guy's head that you know what he's going to do before he does.
That's where Jimmie Johnson is right now with his competition. Take a look at Kurt's postrace press conference from Sunday and see what you notice:
Man, that's a broken man right there. That's beyond frustration on Kurt's part. Key line: "I'd rather lose to any of the 41 cars out there than the 48 car." You do everything you can possibly do, and then the 48 comes dancing right past you like you're standing still. Johnson is completely in the minds of all the other drivers now; you'd never get them to admit it, but you know that their guts just liquefy when they see the 48 in the rear-view mirror.
And Johnson knows exactly what he's doing. "I find a lot of satisfaction in [winning the mind games]," he said after the race. "I told Chad before the year was over I wanted to win a lot to frustrate the competitors. Over the last few years, we've been able to get in some guys' heads, and I think it's been helpful. I don't want to lose that advantage if we can prevent it."
Next up for Johnson is Martinsville, a track where he's won six times in 16 races. If I were him, I'd just walk past drivers in the garage, stare them down, and go "boo!" The way things are going these days, those other drivers would probably run screaming from the garage.
Jimmie Johnson tames Bristol [USA Today]