Don't tell Jimmie Johnson that leading the Sprint Cup Series point standings at this juncture of the season is no big deal.
The five-time champion is elated to be No. 1 this week after his third-place finish in Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen.
|More on Watkins Glen|
"Excited to be leading the points," said Johnson, who now has a single point advantage over second place Greg Biffle. "Whoever the team is, I really believe they get some much-needed experience with the pressure of the points lead late in the season. It's just different than leading at any other point in time. I look forward to the pressure on my team and myself."
Much like his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who fell to fourth after his rough ending on Sunday, Johnson believes standing on top of the point standings mountain is symbolic of a team's performance. After his solid road course effort at the Glen helped bring him back to the top of the heap, Johnson feels like the No. 48 team is headed in the right direction as the Chase beckons.
"I'm proud of the last two days I had," Johnson said of his Watkins Glen weekend. "I feel like Jimmie Johnson with the cars I've had on road courses as of late. You know, just a good couple of days. Happy with the runs. Obviously would have liked to have one more position in both of them. We were very, very close. Trying to keep in perspective how far we've come as a team. To run this competitively on road courses is something I'm very proud of."
While there is no reward for being the regular season points leader after 26 races, something NASCAR should certainly take a look at this offseason, Johnson is taking the approach that it is still beneficial.
"Every little thing we can do to get prepared for the Chase is helpful," he said. "This is another step in that direction. Excited about that."
|Took over the Chase lead by 20 points thanks to a sixth place finish and Jimmie Johnson?s misfortune. This is now the Penske Racing driver?s championship to lose.|
|Saw his seven point lead evaporate thanks to a cut tire and trip into the wall on Sunday. Johnson now must hope a similar such fate happens to Keselowski next week at Homestead to have any shot at a sixth title.|
|Nearly ran the table in Phoenix by leading all practices and taking the pole had he been able to win the race. But a poor decision on lane choice for a late restart cost Busch a shot at Victory Lane.|
|Ending the year on a positive note but wasn?t able to match his Phoenix victory of last November. Still a solid day with a fourth place performance.|
|Was the victim of Jeff Gordon?s revenge that completely eliminated Bowyer from championship contention. He wasn?t an angel in the turn of events but Bowyer definitely got the worst of the situation.|
|Hamlin?s second place finish in Phoenix a welcome rebound from two weeks of disappointment for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He?ll be a factor for a win next Sunday in Homestead.|
|Snapped a 44-race winless drought with Sunday?s win ironically coming on the weekend when reports of his evacuation from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 broke out.|
|A decent day for ?The Biff? in Phoenix, who was able to dodge all the last lap craziness to bring home his Roush Fenway Racing Ford seventh.|
|Minding his own business until getting swept up in the Gordon-Bowyer fight. Logano was on his way to a nice effort to follow up his ninth Nationwide Series win on Saturday.|
|Rough way to earn a fifth place finish as Newman was one of the unfortunate souls to get caught in the last lap crash on the main straightaway.|
|Not a god day at all for Smoke who spun late after making contact racing for position. A 19th place finish for Stewart.|
|Will make the final Sprint Cup start of his career for Roush Fenway Racing next week at Homestead on the heels of a 14th place effort in Phoenix.|
|13||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
|His race was over nearly before it started with a blown engine. After a stellar regular season Truex Jr. has suffered mightily throughout the Chase.|
|An 11th place finish for Edwards as he brings to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in his career.|