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Johnson keeping an eye on Chase rivals going into Charlotte

Oct 12, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT

Bank of America 500 - Practice Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson drew within three points of Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth following last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway, but the five-time Cup champion is cognizant of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon behind him as well.

Harvick staked his claim as a legit contender with his triumph last weekend at Kansas, which enabled him to pull within 25 points of Kenseth in third place.

As for Gordon, Johnson’s teammate, he hasn’t broken through for a win yet but has not had a big slip-up either with finishes of sixth, 15th, fourth and third so far this post-season; he’s 32 points behind Kenseth at fourth in the championship.

On Thursday, Johnson maintained that he was still focusing on getting by Kenseth for the Chase’s top spot. However, he also noted the recent efforts of Harvick and Gordon, which have proven how tough they could be to deal with should the points situation tighten further.

“I certainly have to be aware of [Gordon] and the consistency they have had and the fast cars and great performances – and the same thing with [Harvick],” Johnson said.

“Kevin has got it all. He’s won championships, he understands the pressure. He is a hard-nosed racer – things don’t rattle him. He’s got that all there and the cars have been trending faster and faster and he showed that last week with a dominating weekend. [I'm] looking forward but I certainly know who is behind us.”

Charlotte has been a traditional stronghold for Johnson and the No. 48 gang but they’ve only celebrated in Victory Lane there once since the 2006 season.

A major repave has had a negative effect on their recent performances at the 1.5-mile oval, but Johnson remains confident that while he may not be able to put up a win in tonight’s Bank of America 500, he can still net a solid result.

“…It’s a little different than it was five or six years ago when they resurfaced the track, so we’re still trying to find that magic where we can separate ourselves each time we come back,” Johnson said. “But I still feel like we’re in that Top-3 or Top-5 group, week-in and week-out.

“As long as Matt [Kenseth] isn’t winning, then Top-3 or Top-5 wouldn’t be too bad this weekend.”

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Jimmie Johnson must pick up the pace
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