The 2016 NASCAR season will be here soon, and Athlon Sports is helping you prep for the season with a scouting report and fantasy preview for each of the top 16 drivers. The Athlon Sports 2016 Racing Preview, available on newsstands now, includes previews and stats for every driver and every track.
Jimmie Johnson checks in at No. 3 in our countdown. Here’s what his season could look like on the track and on your fantasy team:
“With his six championships, he’s the greatest driver of the last 10 years,” one former driver says. “I think Jimmie comes out stronger than ever next year because of the new rules package. I think he can drive a car very neutral to loose, and I think Jimmie Johnson is going to be strong in 2016 not only because he’s a good driver and a great champion, but because we’re going to see a big change in the rules in 2016.
“The rules changes are huge. A three-inch spoiler is like having nothing on the rear of the car. There will be less downforce on the front and less downforce overall. It’s going to be a game-changer, and I think it’s going to fit right in Jimmie’s wheelhouse. Bottom line: Jimmie Johnson is the best and fastest driver of the last decade in this modern era — and the new rules package is going to be right in his wheelhouse for next year. I say Jimmie in the next two or three years ties the all-time record with his seventh championship.”
“You can’t ever underestimate the fact that Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have won six titles together already,” one industry insider says. “Nor should you underestimate the fact that they desperately want to not only tie the record for most of all time (currently held by Hall of Famers Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt), but surpass it. I won’t say the best is yet to come from them because they’ve been too damn good already in their time together, but there are more great times ahead.”
Trophy collector: Johnson has earned at least two victories for 14 straight seasons. He’s won four times or more in 11 of those years.
Mr. Consistency: NASCAR’s six-time champion is also “20-time,” posting at least 20 top-10 finishes every year of his Sprint Cup career (since 2002). No one else offers that type of consistency.
Lowe’s Low: Charlotte used to be “Jimmie’s house,” but Johnson was 40th and 39th last year, has just one win in his last 12 starts and an average finish of 19.9 during that stretch.
Closing the deal: Johnson has 26 career postseason victories, the most in NASCAR history, and he has won at least once every year inside the Chase since it began in 2004. Your best bets are the Martinsville and Texas fall races; Johnson has won them both five times for a startling Chase success rate of 45 percent.