Johnson underdog to win the Chase

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:04 PM ET

JOLIET, ILL. - Somehow Jimmie Johnson finds himself in the most unlikely of positions going into the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship that of long shot.

The prospect is astounding considering that all Johnson brings to the table is five consecutive championships something no other NASCAR driver has accomplished.

Yet that is where the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is as it prepares for Sundays GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Johnson has only one victory in the first 26 races this season and will start the Chase seeded sixth.

I think at this point it is safe to say (our streak) is not going to last forever, he said Friday. It is just going to end at some point.

It doesnt mean that Johnson is ready to hand over his keys to the trophy room.

From my experience when you get into the Chase, it is its own season, he said. When you start over and the points spread is as close as it is from first to 12th everybody has a shot again. Our guys have always done well with the pressure.

Johnson said he looks back at the last few races and feels the team is headed in the right direction.

We are running well, we are running in the top five, but we have got to go out in the Chase and set a statement and get back to our ways and do what we can.

Not everybody is ready to count out the five-time champion. Brad Keselowski, one of NASCARs hottest young drivers, thinks the No. 48 is still the team to beat.

I feel bad for Jimmie, Keselowski said. Every year he comes into this deal as the previous winner and he doesnt get labelled the first favourite, which is kind of strange. You would think the guy thats won it the last five years would be labelled as the favourite.


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