Jimmie Johnson came into this year's Chase for the championship with two straight victories, just as he did on the way to his second title a year ago. Only this year, his first three races in the postseason were even better than in 2007.
A year ago, coming off those two straight victories, Johnson began the Chase with finishes of sixth, 14th and third. Since winning at California and Richmond this season, Johnson has run off finishes of second, fifth and first.
But little has changed in the standings with his considerably faster start to the Chase.
A year ago, Johnson led Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by six points and Clint Bowyer by 14. Heading into Talladega, Johnson leads Carl Edwards by 10 and Greg Biffle by 35.