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Ryan Blaney broke his 59-race winless streak with a dominant performance at the Coca-Cola 600. C.J. Radune breaks down NASCAR's longest race and where drivers stand going to Gateway on a short week.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
The seven-time champion announced that 2020 would be his last full season of Cup Series racing. Johnson is coming off two disappointing campaigns and the 44-year-old veteran missed the Chase for the Cup playoffs for the first time in his career last season. Crew chief Kevin Meendering was replaced by Cliff Daniels mid-season in 2019 but the hoped boost never materialized. Instead, Johnson continued to spiral downward, collecting just four Top 10's in the 15 races that Daniels presided. It could be that father time has finally caught up to the NASCAR icon, and skill erosion has set in. The upcoming season will be a farewell tour for Johnson, and it could be very reminiscent of recent farewell tours like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s. Inconsistency and mixed results could continue to hound Johnson in his final year of competition.
The 2018 season for Johnson made one thing painfully clear, and that is that the best days of racing are behind the seven-time champion and the No. 48 team. For the second-straight season the Hendrick Motorsports star scuffled to only 11 Top-10 finishes, and last season was even a winless campaign for the iconic driver. It was Johnson's first winless campaign of his 17-season career. After much discussion at Hendrick, the ownership finally decided to part ways between the best driver-crew chief combo of the modern NASCAR era. Chad Knaus has been re-teamed with William Byron for 2019, and Johnson has been paired with Kevin Meendering. The hope is that this elite driver can somehow find his way back to the top of the sport. While we believe that is highly unlikely, some new blood atop the war wagon could do Johnson some good. In some ways his relationship with Knaus had grown toxic over the past couple years. Johnson is the biggest wild card of the upcoming season, but it's plain to see that he'll not return to the 3-5 win and 20-24 Top 10 plateau at this point in his career.
While the seven-time champion is only one season removed from hoisting the cup, there were many warts that surfaced in 2016 and carried right over into 2017. Johnson managed three wins, but they all came early in the campaign last year. The season in large part was a real struggle. The Hendrick Motorsports star netted only 11 Top-10 finishes, which were a career-low, and he took a premature exit from the Chase. That led to a lowly 10th-place finish in the final driver standings. More importantly, average start and average finish marks of 16.9 and 16.8 were both career worsts, and numbers well above his career averages of 11.5 and 12.4. It could be that after 17 seasons of racing at NASCAR's top level, Father Time has finally caught up to the best driver in NASCAR's modern history. He still carries tons of respect on the track and among his peers, but it's time for fantasy racing players to start looking at Jonson as a second tier driver instead of a first tier star.
The competition may have caught up to Johnson and the No. 48 team in many respects, but the old dog showed the new dogs he still had plenty of tricks up his sleeve last season. The Hendrick Motorsports star led the team to an incredible seventh championship with a brilliant season and even more brilliant performance in the championship finale at Homestead. Johnson won five events during 2016, although he posted a career-low in Top 10's with only 16. It was still good enough to win the championship thanks to the Chase for the Cup system. From a historical perspective, Johnson has placed his name alongside the likes of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with the seven titles. From a fantasy racing standpoint, realize that Johnson is now on the lower end of the elite tier of drivers.
While the competition has steadily caught up to the six-time champion, Johnson is still a top tier and championship contending driver. He's not the dominant force that he was from 2006 to 2013, but he's still an elite level driver in NASCAR. Longtime crew chief Chad Knaus will return to the No. 48 Chevrolet team in 2016 and he and Johnson will again seek that elusive seventh championship. Coming off a five-win, 22 top 10 campaign last season that can only be seen as the floor going forward. The Chase format doesn't lend itself to Johnson's strengths, so another championship is not as likely. However, the track record of this team is so unbelievable, fantasy racing players should once again expect multiple wins and 20+ top 10s in 2016.
After two seasons of failing to win the Sprint Cup Series championship, we still have to rank Johnson the number one driver entering the season. The facts show that the Hendrick Motorsports star has been one of the prime contenders to win the title each of the last two years, but has come up just short in those efforts. Johnson has won seven victories and posted a stunning 45 Top-10 finishes in the last two years, so you cannot argue with the level of performance. Once again crew chief Chad Knaus and Johnson will team to get that elusive sixth championship. There’s little doubt that he’ll be in the running come November.
Johnson fell short of a championship in 2005, and ended up fifth in the final points standings. Johnson reaches a cross-roads in 2006, and looks to regroup for another championship run. Johnson is confronted with an uphill battle as the competition around him continually gets better.
More Fantasy News
Racing at Coca-Cola 600
Johnson will drive the No. 84 Chevrolet for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28, Kelly Crandall of Racer.com reports.
Racing at Circuit of the Americas
Johnson will drive the No. 84 Chevrolet for Legacy Motor Club in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas, Austin Konenski of Sportsnaut.com reports.
Fast Daytona 500 Practice
Johnson was fastest in opening practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway Friday evening. He turned a fast lap of 194.225 mph.
Chicago Street Course Start
Legacy Motor Club's Johnson announced Sunday on FOX that he will enter the NASCAR Cup Series' inaugural Chicago Street Race, NASCAR.com reports.
Crew Chief Named
Legacy Motor Club announced NASCAR veteran Todd Gordon to crew chief seven-time NASCAR Champion Johnson's limited racing schedule in the No. 84 Chevrolet.