Johnson won only two races in 2011—the lowest victory total of his 10-year Cup career—and he wasn't the dominant force on 1.5-mile tracks that he had been in the past. Johnson's performance on those intermediate-length tracks had been perhaps the most overlooked factor in his title binge; five of the 10 Chase races take place at 1.5-mile venues.
"Every year that we've won the championship, the way we've done it has been a little different, but we do know that the best way to win a title is to win races in the Chase," Johnson says. "So we build our entire season around that idea, that we need to be at our best in the Chase. It's a long way to go to the 2012 Chase, but I can guarantee you that no one will be more focused than us. We will not get outworked. We are going to come back very, very strong."
To every other team in the Cup garage, those should be worrisome words.