Jimmie Johnson's previous Chase record gives him a "psychological advantage" heading into the decisive final eight rounds of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup, according to his four-time champion teammate Jeff Gordon.
Gordon, who finished directly behind Johnson in third at New Hampshire, said Johnson's past ability to peak during the Chase – a key ingredient in his unprecedented string of five straight titles between 2006 and '10 – already made him a favorite for 2012 after just two of the 10 Chase races.
Gordon was speaking after Johnson moved into the lead of the Chase, one point ahead of Penske's Brad Keselowski, following his runner-up finish at Loudon.
"The season they have had, and the first two finishes [in the Chase], I think that just builds confidence and sends a message to the competitors that you're definitely going to have to deal with this team for the championship," Gordon said. "It definitely gives them a big advantage. It allows the competition to get down – beat mentally as well as on the racetrack. That gives you another edge.
"These guys, they are just so strong, you don't expect them to make mistakes. When they are in this position, you expect them to be strong week in, week out; they are just that good. We have seen others make a run at them, but when they are in thus kind of zone, they have not been beat.
"What the 11 [Denny Hamlin] did [at Loudon] was pretty big, but he's going to have to do that for eight more weeks..."
Johnson admitted confidence within his camp was high, particularly with circuits like Dover – where he has won seven times previously – coming up.
"We have tracks that have been great for the 48 for a lot of years; tracks that we were very successful at in the spring events," he explained. "The one thing that has me concerned is Talladega, but outside of that and the unknown I'm very optimistic."