Reigning Sprint Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson believes his teammate Jeff Gordon will be a strong contender all year once again.
Gordon, who ended a 47-race win drought last Sunday, has led the standings for five weeks already since he moved up front following the third race of the year at Las Vegas.
For Johnson, his teammate's current form is a clear sign that he is back to contend for the title once again after being out of contention last year despite making it into the series' Chase for the Championship. He says he can see the four-time champion has regained the confidence that will make him a tough rival in the championship fight.
"Jeff is gonna be strong." Johnson said. "If you look at, what was it '07, '06, he led so much of it, got to the Chase. They had their stuff organized and ready. We had to race hard for that championship.
"His early success this year I think is building confidence within his team. They've had the right equipment. They've had the stuff. It's just about getting everything to fall in sync together. They've hit their stride."
Johnson admitted to feel good for Gordon finally ending his winless streak, although he said he wouldn't have felt bad as a competitor had he been able to pass him for the lead beat him in the closing laps of Sunday's race.
"You know, as a friend, I would have felt bad," said Johnson. "As a competitor, I would have been excited. The best thing I can try to do, just from the competitor's standpoint, would be to try to break any momentum that anyone's putting together. And the (number) 24 (team) is leading the points right now.
"So if I could have, I think it would have been helpful for me, and kind of the mental side of me, racing the 24 for the next few months. It wouldn't last forever. But, you know, everybody chalks up these little victories against one another.
"If I could have made the pass and won, it could have been helpful for a couple months."
Back in 2007, Johnson and Gordon were the main contenders for the series' title after Gordon led the standing for most of the year, only to lose to the points lead in the final 10 races.