How quickly momentum can be gained and lost.
Two races ago, holding a 77-point lead after a top-10 finish at Pocono Raceway, Jimmie Johnson appeared a prohibitive favorite to win a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
After finishes of 40th (engine failure) and 36th (accident), the fortunes of Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet have changed perceptibly. His points lead over Clint Bowyer also has shrunk to 18 markers.
Nobody, particularly Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, want to be viewed as stumbling into the postseason.
“We certainly want to clean things up and have some great finishes rolling into the Chase,” said Johnson, a three-time Atlanta winner. Johnson holds the track’s top Driver Rating of 108.3. “There is still a lot of racing left. And once the Chase starts, it is its own animal.”
A single race may have shifted momentum to Matt Kenseth, the Bristol winner.
Kenseth, ranked sixth, has clinched at least a Chase Wild Card berth but more likely will qualify as a member of the regular season top 10. Were the reset to occur today, he would be the No. 1 seed with 15 bonus points – three more than Johnson.
“I’m not always a huge believer in momentum as far as just looking at paper and looking at finishes but I am a believer in momentum as far as performance,” said Kenseth, whose average finish had been 17.8 since his last victory in Kentucky. “We had all our speed back (at Bristol). We led some laps. Hopefully that gives you momentum.”