SONOMA -- Jimmie Johnson not only enters this weekend's Toyota/Save Mart 350 leading the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, but also on a four-year streak of finishing in the top 10 at Sonoma Raceway.
Such a streak seemed unlikely considering how Johnson's Cup career began at Sonoma, when from 2002 to 2008, he finished outside the top 10 five times.
In 2007, his car and that of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon failed inspection before the first practice and he had to start the race 42nd out of 43 cars.
Johnson put all his Sonoma troubles behind him in 2010, when he took over the lead from Marcos Ambrose late in the race and went on to his first road course victory in the Cup series.
"That was huge box to check for me. I was so bad at it, and we couldn't understand why, especially with my background," Johnson said of road course racing. "Once my brain grasped it and I got in the right spot mentally, I was able to make it work. It was a big day for me."
Johnson started the year with a win at the Daytona 500 and has only finished outside the top 10 only six times in the first 15 races. He also has victories this season in Martinsville in April and at Pocono two weeks ago.
Johnson and his teammates all struggled last week at Michigan, as he finished 28th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 37th, Kasey Kahne was 38th and Gordon was 39th.
"All four of us stunk," Johnson said. "My tire issue seemed to be a little different from Kasey's. Kasey's blew out, mine, I think I ran something over the way it went down. . . . It was just one of those days where we couldn't get out of there fast enough."