LONG POND, Pa. – Matt Kenseth furrowed his brow at the mere suggestion Jimmie Johnson had spiraled toward a slump.
Only a chump would count out the champ after an 0-for-11 start.
“I don’t think anybody else was really being like, ‘Oh man, Jimmie’s finally not winning. This is our shot, he’s done,’” Kenseth said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he won those two races and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he wins this weekend.”
Coming off consecutive wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Dover, Johnson stormed into Pocono Raceway trying to become the first driver to win three straight since 2007. The last driver to threepeat? Johnson, of course. He steamrolled to five straight victories in 2007 en route to 10 total and the second of five straight championships. He won his sixth last season and has stamped himself as a heavy favorite to add a record-tying seventh title.
He’s certainly at the right track to make it 3-for-3. Johnson has three career wins at Pocono, including a dominant victory last June.
“We can swing for the fences here, which makes that a lot of fun,” Johnson said.
It’s tough to guess what made it tougher for the rest of the field – a winless Johnson on a determined hunt for the first checkered flag or the No. 48 Chevrolet on a winning streak and wanting more.
“(The media) asked me before if I was worried about Jimmie because he was on a losing streak,” Carl Edwards said. “I am worried about him now for the opposite reason.”
Johnson’s two wins make him a lock for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, which means he can use what’s left of the season before the final 10 races as sort of a test session to fine-tune his setups on the 48. Crew chief Chad Knaus has always been at his best with time to prepare.
Johnson’s six championships are behind only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt’s record seven titles. Knaus trails only Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman, who won eight championships – seven with Petty and one with Terry Labonte.