Johnson: Harvick favourite for Chase

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson believes points leader Kevin Harvick is the favourite heading into this year's championship play-off

Johnson: Harvick favourite for Chase

Harvick currently holds a 293-point lead in the drivers' standings, only three races before the Chase kicks off, following his third win of the season last weekend at Michigan, which was his first victory in a non-restrictor plate event since 2006.

The Richard Childress Racing driver has also claimed victories at Talladega and Daytona earlier this year, but despite those wins he will probably start the Chase behind Johnson and Denny Hamlin, given that both of his rivals have claimed five victories and thus 50 bonus points, relative to the 30 that Harvick currently holds, with another 30 up for grabs in the next three races before points totals get reset.

Even under the current situation heading into the play-off, Johnson believes his rival has shown enough speed and consistency through the regular season that he should be tagged as the favourite to take over the series' crown this year.

"I do think that those guys should be considered the favourites," said Johnson. "If you look at their success on all types of track, the #29 is doing a great job collecting a lot of points everywhere we go. I know for a lot of people the win at Michigan solidified things for them, but to us in the garage area and watching the points total it's all about collecting points, you don't have to win a race in the Chase to be the champion.

"They're on fire right now; they're doing a great job. In racing with Kevin over the years and being around him, I've always known that this is the most important thing to him. I think a lot of us were shocked to see the last few years, the way things have been for them.

"You don't win a Busch/Nationwide championship by accident; you don't win the big races that he's won by accident. He has the talent, the team does and they have it all on the line right now and they're doing a great job. We're definitely working hard to catch those guys."

Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Jeff Gordon also believes Harvick to be the man to beat entering this year's Chase. He says his victory last week at Michigan really shows what Harvick and his team are capable of on the fast intermediate tracks that prevail during the final ten weeks of the season.

"As far as who has momentum and seems to be the strongest in my opinion right now, I would definitely say the #29 [Kevin Harvick]," said Gordon. "I think especially that win last week - restrictor plate wins are one thing but to go and win at Michigan when those big fast tracks like that are tracks that you're going to have to be competitive at in the Chase, plus the bonus points they have and the fact that they've been consistent.

"I think that Childress has really stepped it up, especially with Kevin and that #29 team. I think that last weekend they kind of solidified themselves as the favourite in my opinion."

Despite the comments from both four-time champions, Harvick still considers Johnson as the man to beat and refuses to get carried away with the expectations placed upon him. He believes the current situation for the reigning champion resembles that of previous seasons where he has gone on to up the ante in the final 10 races to claim four consecutive titles.

"I still think the #48 [Johnson] team is the team to beat," said Harvick. "No matter how good somebody runs, I still think that those guys are the ones to beat just for the fact that they have won it the last four years being in a somewhat similar situation. I'd like to just leave it all over there and let us keep doing what we are doing.

"Obviously, we've run well and we feel like we can contend for a championship. But contending and winning are two different things and I think we've shown we can win races and have shown that we can run good. But, I still think until somebody completes the deal and knocks them off, they have to be the ones you have to beat just because they have done it four times."

Only once during the last four years has Johnson won more races than this season before the Chase, although he still has three races to match the six victories he claimed during the first 26 races in 2007. In 2006 Harvick won twice before the Chase and then took three wins in the final 10 races, but an engine failure at Dover hampered his chances of seriously contending for the title in the season finale.

shares
comments
Changes to Cup schedule announced

Previous article

Changes to Cup schedule announced

Next article

Johnson takes pole position at Bristol

Johnson takes pole position at Bristol
Load comments
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR
Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

NASCAR
Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

NASCAR
Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

NASCAR
Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

NASCAR
Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

NASCAR
Feb 11, 2021
Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines Plus

Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines

The American stock car scene is more famous for its close racing and occasional punch-ups, but there have been some fantastic machines too. As part of Autosport's 70th anniversary celebrations in 2020, we picked out five of its best

NASCAR
Jan 3, 2021
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Plus

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future

NASCAR
Nov 17, 2020