If you’ve been following the Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup this year, then you will know that Martin Truex Jr. has been consistent throughout the year, has the most wins of the season (along with Kyle Larson), and is currently the favorite to with the playoffs. However, there are 15 other drivers in contention who will be chasing the title, and Jimmie Johnson is one of them. For some, Jimmie Johnson would have appeared to be under the radar this season. Although he has secured three race wins throughout the regular season, he has been inconsistent this year. Throughout the second half of the regular season, he only finished in the top 10, twice. If you look at some of the races in the second half of the season, since his last win, he was out of the top 10 for eight races overall.While the performance hasn’t been there throughout the whole year, it’s still too early to dismiss him from the championship, and it should also be remembered that he is the defending champion.These are the reasons why Johnson still remains a serious threat, and why favorites like Martin Truex Jr. will need to take him seriously in the coming weeks.

Hendrick Motorsports Uses the Regular Season for Testing

Ok, so we know that this team does like to win, and it’s not like they go out there with the aim of throwing away chances of victory. While they do focus on performance during the regular season, they also use different races to test out their performance packages for the post season. The aim of the year has been about managing their drivers and performance, while getting all of the data that they need to give a serious post season challenge. Knowing this, it can become easier to forgive Jimmie Johnson for not performing as well as was expected in the second half of the season. Also, if we look at recent history, Johnson was 11th place in the championship after Labor Day Weekend in 2016. That didn’t stop him from getting through the post season and winning the overall championship. If we consider that he and the team are following a similar strategy this year, then the coming races will provide an opportunity for them to show us that collecting data and playing strategy rather than chasing wins, was the best decision.

The First Race of the Playoffs Will Be On Very Familiar Territory

On September 17, the first race of the playoffs will be held at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Branded as the Tales of the Turtles 400, this is a track where Jimmie Johnson has excelled, and this could give him an advantage from the start of the playoffs.He is a driver who (along with Tony Stewart) has the most top 10 finishes at this track, he has two pole positions, and he has led the most laps of any driver (577 in total).It’s not just about his history at the track when racing, because he has already had experience at the circuit this year. Just a few weeks ago, in early August, Johnson was at a two-day test event. Having that recent experience will help him to be more familiar with the track in its current condition. Although the layouts of NASCAR tracks rarely change, the track surfaces are in a constant state of evolution. Johnson spoke about the test, saying that “Any laps you can get on a current track on the right tire can be hugely, hugely, beneficial. This track is always a lot of fun. It certainly has aged a little more. There’s a little more character in the track, which I appreciate and love and know the rest of the field will as well.”It seems from this quote that Johnson is optimistic about his chances in the first race of the post season, and already having a strong record at this particular track will mean that he could get the post season head start that he needs to defend his title.

It’s Not Just Chicagoland Where Jimmie Johnson is Strong

In addition to the track in Joliet, there are a number of tracks in the post season that should favor Johnson. Most of his recent wins have come from the post season, since the format was changed back in 2004. Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the 2017 Bank of America 500 will be held on October 8, is probably Johnsons best track on the NASCAR calendar. Johnson used to refer to this track as “Our House”, after winning at the track so many times in the past. In 2016, Johnson won the race and led the most laps at the circuit, and he’ll be looking to again put up a strong fight this year.Later races of the post season at Texas and Martinsville, are also considered strong tracks for Johnson. He has a total of 11 career victories in the playoffs at both locations.In 2016, Johnson won at three of the post season races, more than any other driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup. For anyone that doubts his abilities to win the championship in 2017, they could be in for some surprises in the upcoming races.

Do The Odds Favor Jimmie Johnson?

Jimmie Johnson isn’t the current favorite to win the playoffs. Drivers like Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch are ahead of him as far as the odds go, and depending on the bookmaker, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are also ahead. Johnson doesn’t need to be at the top of the odds, and he wasn’t last year.He has a very real chance of winning the title and coming out on top of the playoffs, and if we look at last year, his standing at the beginning of the post season will not have an impact on the final the result. If you’re looking for a bet with more valuable odds, but without a huge amount of uncertain risk, then Jimmie Johnson is a good pick with some solid history behind him