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Statistically Speaking

2015 Forecast: Johnson, #5

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Jimmie Johnson won three races and finished fifth in the points’ standings as a NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie in 2002. He also finished fifth in points in 2005 and was sixth in 2011, but that is the closest he ever came to struggling until last year. Fantasy owners kept waiting for Johnson to mash the throttle in 2014 and contend for the championship, but an accident at Kansas in the fall, followed by two results outside the top 15 in his next two efforts dropped him from consideration once the Contender round was complete. He continued to struggle and finished 11th in the standings.

It is safe to say that Johnson was a huge disappointment from a fantasy standpoint last year. He failed to meet the expectations placed on him by owners and finished outside the top 25 more than 20 percent of the time. While he failed to live up to his potential, however, there were many drivers who would have readily changed positions with Johnson because he scored four victories, 11 top-fives, and 20 top-10s.

Results of that magnitude are only useful if they can be predicted ahead of time and Johnson scored three or more consecutive top-10s on three occasions during the season. One of these groupings came in the first three races of 2014 when he finished fifth in the Daytona 500, which was followed by back-to-back sixth-place results at Phoenix International Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnson’s next longest showing was a seven-race, top-10 streak from early May through late June. Three of his victories came in that span of races, but all of his other results were outside the top five. Players had a right to be slightly nervous about starting him all season, and after scoring consecutive top-fives at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway in the fall, he had only two more strong showings.

Conventional wisdom held that Johnson and his crew chief were pacing themselves during the regular season and failed to find the switch they normally discover during the Chase.

It is hard to imagine Johnson will struggle two seasons in a row. His team remains intact with Chad Knaus on the pit box and while those two bicker occasionally when things are going wrong, their chemistry is strong. Actually, Johnson’s slight stumble in 2014 might actually be a blessing in disguise if that gets him overlooked early in the year. If the team was waiting for a patented late-season surge, they will not do that again in 2015 and Johnson could—make that should—get out of the gates quickly.

Anything can happen at Daytona International Speedway in the opening race, but Johnson counts Martinsville Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, and Phoenix among his best tracks. Those venues are clustered in the first six weeks of the schedule and fantasy owners will have a quick gauge of how well this team has rebounded well before week 10.
 

Avg. Finish

Starts

Track

Best Finish

2014 race 1 finish

2014 race 2 finish

6.23

26

Martinsville Speedway

1

2

32

6.65

20

Auto Club Speedway

1

24

 

7.00

4

Kentucky Speedway

3

10

 

7.70

23

Phoenix International Raceway

1

6

39

8.15

26

Dover Downs International

1

1

3

8.44

16

Darlington Raceway

1

3

 

9.09

23

Texas Motor Speedway

1

25

1

9.15

13

Chicagoland Speedway

2

12

 

9.23

13

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

1

6

 

9.47

17

Kansas Speedway

1

9

40

9.88

26

Pocono Raceway

1

6

39

10.27

26

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

1

42

5

11.37

27

Charlotte Motor Speedway

1

1

17

11.52

23

Atlanta Motor Speedway

1

4

 

12.92

13

Sonoma Raceway

1

7

 

13.92

13

Watkins Glen International

3

28

 

14.08

12

Homestead - Miami Speedway

2

9

 

14.96

26

Bristol Motor Speedway

1

19

4

15.46

13

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

1

14

 

15.88

26

Michigan International Speedway

1

1

9

17.46

26

Talladega Superspeedway

1

23

24

17.50

26

Richmond International Raceway

1

32

8

17.96

26

Daytona International Speedway

1

5

42

Inactive

16.50

2

Homestead - Miami Speedway - old

8

 

 

23.20

5

North Carolina Speedway

2

 

 

 

Previous Forecasts

#6 Dale Earnhardt Jr
#7 Kyle Larson
#8 Matt Kenseth
#9 Jamie McMurray
#10 Denny Hamlin

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.