Johnson daunting task

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Oct 18 1537

For practical purposes, if Jimmie Johnson hopes to advance to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, he has to win Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega, the cutoff race for the Contender Round.

Despite pondering possible strategies for the race, Johnson says he hasn't come up with a definitive way to approach the make-or-break event.

"I've put a lot of time and thought into my approach for this weekend," Johnson said. "There really isn't a clear vision for how to make it work. Racing for it can get you in trouble. Riding can get you in trouble. If you ride at some point, you have to go to the front. With this rules package, it's much more difficult to get track position.

"It seems like, with maybe three pit stops to go, you need to have control of the race and maintain it -- or at least be in first or second to be at the head of the line and give yourself a chance to win. So I don't know... I really don't. Maybe being cautious early will buy us some time and keep us on the road. From the halfway point of the race on, you have to fight for track position if you want to win." Another complication is that at least two other drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski -- are in the same leaky boat. Either they win or they start working on their 2015 programs.

"There are many other guys out there with the same goal, not only from a Chase situation, but also trying to win a race this year," Johnson said.

"We'll get out there to work and see what happens."