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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Don’t Count Jimmie Out Just Yet

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This weekend the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to wine country for the first of three-road course races this season.

So far, NASCAR fans have witnessed domination by the Ford camp, especially from Stewart-Haas Racing. But a decade ago, going into Sonoma things were a little different. In fact, a Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and a Dodge won at least one race before the road course.

We were on the verge of observing NASCAR history.

Then 32-year-old Jimmie Johnson was driving for three championships. Yes, it had been done before, but it was significant because he was racing for his third straight title. The only other driver that had done that before was Cale Yarborough, which won it from 1976-1978.

In comparison to 2018, Johnson was having a slightly better season. Heading into the 16th event of the year back in 2008, Johnson had already scored a victory and had three poles.

This year, Johnson got off to a rocky start and has only two top-five finishes with a best start of ninth at Texas.

But 2018 is a lot different from 2008.

Back then, the top 12 in points made it to the playoffs, which was called the “Chase.” In the Chase there was no elimination; it was just a reset of the points and an opportunity for the best 12 drivers to race for a title in the last 10 races.

Now, there is a new playoff system which can really shake up the battle for the championship. You win, and you are in. That’s right, although Johnson sits 13th in the standings, if he earns a victory he has an automatic spot in the post-season.

Quite honestly, Johnson and the No. 48 team have a long way to go until they become dominant as a decade ago. But the current playoff format adds an opportunity for drivers, which Johnson can certainly take advantage of.

The California road course hasn’t been the best for Johnson but hasn’t been the worst. He won the race back in 2010 where he led 55 laps and went on to win the championship that year.

The drive for his eighth championship has been challenging this season. Summer is pretty much here, and good tracks are on the schedule for Johnson.

In July, we head to New Hampshire and Pocono where Johnson has a total of six victories. There is still a long way to go in the season and the No. 48 team still has time to turn it around and make a run for eight.

The regular season may look to have been dominated by a few guys, but the playoffs are unpredictable with the elimination process.

A decade ago we witnessed history and this season we may see it again; don’t rule it out.

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Brandon Rivero

Brandon Rivero lives 45 miles north of Homestead-Miami Speedway. Born and raised in Miami, FL, he currently is a student at Florida International University school of Communications and Journalism with a focus in Public Relations. In addition to POPULAR SPEED, Rivero is part of his university’s Panther Motorsports organization in charge of the Public Relations department.