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NASCAR At Dover: Point Leader, Dover Dominator Jimmie Johnson Looks To Distance Himself From Rivals

I'm not sure if Jimmie Johnson has any musical talent, but George Throrogood might ought to give him a ring anyway. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy is certainly NASCAR's version of a Delaware Destroyer.

You don't win five-straight Sprint Cup championships without having a few venues you dominate at. Still, Johnson's stats at Dover International Speedway - site of this weekend's AAA 400 - are liable to make the folks most cynical of his success raise their eyebrows in wonder. He won his first two trips there in 2002, won this past June, and has done plenty of winning in the nine years in between.

In 21 starts at the Monster Mile, Johnson has seven wins, 10 top-fives, and 15 top-10s. Perhaps the most telling statistic of his dominance in Delaware is his laps led total: he's paced 2,275 of the 8,219 laps he's completed in those 21 races. Did you catch that? Out of all the laps where his No. 48 Chevrolet has been on the track, he's left 5,944 for the other drivers in the field. When you're talking about the premier division of American motorsports, with 43 drivers running every race, a driver having that percentage of the laps led all to himself is all but unheard of. In the cases where it is heard, you're usually dealing with one of the top drivers and teams not only of their era, but of all the eras that have made up NASCAR's 64-year history.

Another thing about Johnson and Dover is the fact that you can look at his stats and see where they could be even better. In June 2003, he got into oil from Ward Burton's blown engine and spun hard into the inside wall. A year later, Dave Blaney and Michael Waltrip got tangled up after restarting ahead of the leaders - one of the instances that illustrate the benefit of NASCAR's wave-around rule - and wiped out nearly 20 cars. One of those was Johnson's, which went from looking at a potential win to sitting wadded up in the third turn.

In June 2007 he had perhaps the only car capable of contending with Martin Truex Jr., but he cut a tire late and had to duck onto pit road. That fall, he got wrapped up in another crash, this one caused by Kurt Busch slamming the wall off turn two.

Finally, in the June 2010 race, Johnson probably would have beaten Kyle Busch for the victory, but he was was tagged for speeding during his last trip down pit road and had to serve a pass-through penalty.

Notice that most of those issues happened in the June event. Johnson's stats in the fall race are really something to behold. In the eight Chase races at Dover, he's scored three wins, a second, and a fifth. Moreover, in the 3200 laps run in those races, he's completed all but two (he was one lap down after the aforementioned 2007 crash, and in 2004 he finished a lap down - in tenth - thanks to Ryan Newman's rocketship of a race car) and led 835 laps.

Getting down to the point is the fact that, as the man atop the Chase standings after two races, Johnson stands primed to put plenty of daylight between himself and many if not all of his rivals as he makes a run at his sixth championship. The title obviously won't be decided Sunday, with seven races still remaining. The picture could look much clearer, however, and it would pretty much look the same as it has quite often over the past 10 years, with Johnson out front and pulling away.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.