FORT WORTH -- NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson returned to Texas Motor Speedway this week in a familiar position -- after his win last week, he leads the points standings again.
“I like it," Johnson said. "I love being up top. I think it sends a message to the garage area that we're buttoned up, we're ready, and we're able to lead. Leading in the chase has a bit more impact than leading now, but I'll take it."
When Johnson won those five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, he was averaging seven wins a year. The two years after those championship seasons, he had a total of seven, period.
It's still early in the season, but things seem to be changing.
Last week in Martinsville, Johnson won his second race of the year. He's the only driver with multiple wins in 2013.
"The thing I look at the most is that's a track within the chase, so coming back there in the fall, we have a great place to start and hopefully we can have the same of performance, all-and-all good," Johnson said. "My mind clearly is on the big picture and the championship."
The only controversy Johnson seems to create is when journalists pick him as the best driver of all time. Critics say it’s because of the chase format. He has won all of his titles under the nine-year-old system.
"It’s like assuming a double play," said Terry Blount, who covers motorsports for ESPN.com. "You don't know how they would have raced if there wouldn't be a chase, and how they would have approached the season if it was accumulative points. I don't think that's a fair criticism. I think what he's done in any era in any system, is truly remarkable."
ESPN NASCAR analyst Rusty Wallace is also a fan.
"He's very calculated, he's very polished, he's very perfect," Wallace said. "A lot of people don't like perfect. A lot of people like controversy and stuff like that. If I would tell Jimmie anything and give him a piece of advice, I’d tell him to be a little bit meaner out there."
But as long as he keeps winning, being mean seems out of character.