Despite being the defending champion and a seven-time Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson isn’t the favorite to win it all again this year.
Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson all have better odds to win the championship this season according to oddsmakers, and Johnson has 7 to 1 odds to win it. Johnson has three wins this season, but he and his team have struggled during the last half of the season.
Johnson won three races during the first 13 of the year, but he said at playoff media day that he isn’t too concerned about his recent slump because he’s been through it before.
“It’s so unpredictable that there is no telling,” Johnson said via Autoweek. “I think our chances are really good, and we should be in the conversation. I know we need to earn that right to go out and be a part of the conversation. So maybe we’re a good bet to be had there.”
There is some speculation among other NASCAR drivers and teams that Johnson tries to win as much as he can during the first half of the year before going into “playoff mode” down the stretch.
Johnson said his team tried hard not to fall into the same trap down the stretch as he did last season, but he doesn’t believe it will affect him entering the playoffs.
“I don’t want to take away from the frustration and effort that has gone into the summer,” Johnson said. “We didn’t enjoy last year and we have had other summers that weren’t any fun, too. We have worked really hard to not let it happen in 2017, but dammit, we did it again.
“So, the one thing that is after the summer is the fall, and we always get hot in the fall. We are certainly hoping for more of the same.”
Johnson and his team will likely have their sights set on the third race of the playoffs at Dover where Johnson has won 11 times, including earlier this season.
Johnson might not be the favorite, but it wouldn’t be wise to count him out considering the success he’s had throughout his career.