Any thoughts of Jimmie Johnson having any lingering affects from last weeks disastrous finish at Texas were quickly put to rest during Saturday’s Final Phoenix Practice in preparation for Sunday’s Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series points leader laid out the fastest lap of 132.348 mph early in the practice and appears to be primed at taking care of business and increasing his 73 point lead in the Chase for the Championship.
Johnson has a conceivable chance of clinching the title at Phoenix this week with one race still to go, which would be an unprecedented fourth Championship in a row. However, with another poor performance and good runs by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, Johnson could also find himself leaving Phoenix third in points.
The later scenario seems very unlikely based on his past history at Phoenix that has never seen him finish worse than 15th with a current streak of six straight top-5 finishes that include three wins.
Johnson’s rocket this week is the same chassis he used while finishing second at Martinsville, a track that -- while half the distance of Phoenix -- is still relevant because of relatively no banking.