Jimmie Johnson roars back to life


CONCORD, N.C. -- Kurt Busch winning the Coca-Cola 600 after finishing sixth in his first Indianapolis 500. Danica Patrick becoming the first woman to win a Sprint Cup race. Jeff Gordon overcoming back pain to win where he had his first Cup victory 20 years ago. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning with his Superman paint scheme.

There were plenty of potentially great storylines for Sunday night's finale of the busiest day in motorsports.

Jimmie Johnson winning was not the most compelling.

But it was the most predictable.

You knew he had a fast car. He started on the pole. You knew he had a history of winning here. His six points victories coming into the night were tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for the most at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

You also knew he had a point to prove. Skeptics were beginning to wonder if he'd lost his magic after he equaled the longest non-winning streak to start a season at 11.

The only other time that happened was 2003, and Johnson ended it with a victory in the 600. So there was no surprise here. And seriously, you didn't really think Johnson was going to go winless for the first time in his 13 seasons, did you?

Johnson certainly didn't.

"I promise you, all the hype, all the concern and worry, that was elsewhere,'' he said after recording career win No. 67. "It wasn't in my head.''

But Johnson has to be in the head of everyone else in NASCAR's premier series as he chases the record seven titles that Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt had in their illustrious careers.

He's now almost certainly in the Chase, and all the talk about how he can't quite adjust to the tighter conditions of the new rules package will end.

"Yeah, they know we're awake,'' Johnson said.

It's not cocky, by the way, when you can back it up.

It doesn't make for the best storyline, either. But if this victory is what propels the No. 48 team to that seventh title, then there will be no bigger storyline whether you're a Johnson fan or not.

"The No. 4 car has had that momentum this year,'' Johnson said of two-time winner Kevin Harvick, who finished 1.27 seconds back in second. "They've been able to go out and execute and show a lot of speed and win.

"Hopefully, this 48 is heading that way and we can get those other people thinking about us."

To be fair, Johnson was a bit lucky even though he led a race-high 164 laps. Harvick had the fastest car most of the night, leading 100 laps. But a mistake on pit road -- a loose wheel -- put him back in the field and forced him to play catch-up at the end.

"We needed 700 miles to get where we needed to be,'' Harvick said.

Six hundred and 10 may have been enough the way he was closing on Johnson. Or just a clean pit stop when the race was on the line.

"I look at it as we let him slip one in front of us by shooting ourselves in the foot,'' Harvick said.

At least he didn't use the "golden horseshoe where the sun doesn't shine" line as he did in 2010 after Johnson beat him at Auto Club Speedway in California.

It's been obvious for quite some time that Johnson is more good than lucky.

As for all the other storylines that didn't materialize:

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