Jimmie Johnson time at Vegas?


LAS VEGAS -- So ? what have we learned so far in the Sprint Cup Series?

Well, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is walking with a swagger we haven't seen from him in forever; Kevin Harvick looks insanely fast in that No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet; and Danica Patrick continues to struggle.

But with just two races complete -- one at a superspeedway and the other at a short track -- we still have more questions than answers. Here are five things to ponder leading up to Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, Fox):

Does JJ make his move?

The last time we caught up with Jimmie Johnson in Las Vegas he was blistering his Goodyears on The Strip and hoisting his sixth Sprint Cup with crew chief extraordinaire Chad Knaus at the Wynn ballroom, site of the 2013 season-ending awards banquet.

Johnson's quest for seven Cup championships could get a considerable boost this weekend at Vegas, where William Hill oddsmakers listed Six-Time as the 7-1 favorite to win Sunday.

The reigning champ's numbers on the 1.5-mile oval in the Nevada desert certainly support the odds: four wins in 12 starts, seven top-10s and a series-best average finish of 9.5 among active drivers. He is the career wins leader at Las Vegas, and his driver rating of 112.3 there since 2005 crushes the next driver in line -- his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon at 103.8.

Now the scary part: JJ and the 48 crew enter Sunday's race with much momentum after finishing an under-the-radar fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500 and sixth the next week at Phoenix.

"I love this track, and I love the area," said Johnson, who qualified fifth fastest Friday. "One other thing to add to this racetrack and how you drive it -- for whatever reason, it's been a very intense track, a track that bravery usually pays off, and I think that fits my driving style and works good for me here."

In case you were wondering, the folks at William Hill listed Harvick, last week's winner at Phoenix, and Matt Kenseth, the defending race winner, next in line at 15-2 odds before qualifying. Oh, and Danica Patrick? She was the long shot of the field at 200-1.

Will Junior's torrid start continue?

Beware the 88 because Earnhardt is driving with a ton of confidence.

Earnhardt backed up his streak-busting Daytona 500 victory -- and subsequent weeklong media circus romp -- with a runner-up finish at Phoenix. He and crew chief Steve Letarte easily could have started the season with back-to-back celebrations in Victory Lane had Harvick not discovered a phantom turbo boost in his so-called freaky-fast Chevy at PIR.

A minor setback, Earnhardt said.

"Your confidence brings a positive attitude with it," the Sprint Cup points leader said before Thursday's four-hour test at LVMS. "We've been building that confidence, obviously, for several years, resulting in a really solid season last year, especially throughout the Chase. Starting off this year with a win and a second-place finish just continues to make us feel like what we're doing is working and what we're doing is heading in the right direction."

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