Jimmie Johnson believes his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon is a serious championship threat, following Gordon's third win of the season in the last round at Atlanta.
Four-time series champion Gordon has become a stronger contender in the last few weeks, scoring consistent finishes and securing a spot in the Chase two weeks ago by virtue of his tally of wins, which is second only to Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch thus far during the year.
Johnson's team has seen a reshuffle ahead of this season after long-time crew chief Steve Letarte was moved to work alongside teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., while Alan Gustafson, who previously worked with Mark Martin at Hendrick when he finished runner-up in the 2009 Chase, is now calling the shots on Gordon's No. 24 team.
Johnson believes Gordon and his new group have good chemistry, and he continues to see the spark in his team-mate, who's already into his 19th season at Cup level and still searching for a fifth Cup title.
"I think Jeff is a very serious threat for the championship," Johnson said. "I've been very impressed with the relationship that he and Alan have put together and the communication between those two.
"Each year we see Jeff and his excitement to continue and excitement to race and win and compete for championships. He still has that same excitement. This year, I think the difference has been the connection with he and Alan. They've done a great job and I feel that he is going to be a very serious threat for the championship."
Despite recognizing Gordon's potential in the Chase, Johnson does not necessarily believe that his team-mate's current greater momentum is a pointer of what may happen early in the Chase. Besides Gordon's win earlier this week, he has also led the most laps in the last two races while Johnson still has only one win to his name this season.
"Momentum doesn't hurt going into the Chase; but, we've been without momentum [and other times] we've had momentum," said Johnson. "Another way to look at it is we've had momentum working against us and momentum working for us and we've been able to win [the title] either way.
"I've said all along, these final 10 races, it's its own world. When everything re-racks and the point spread is so small between first and 12th, it changes things and it's a whole new season. It's a clean sheet of paper and off you go."
Gordon has scored the most points of all four Hendrick drivers over the past six weeks, second only to Penske's Brad Keselowski among the whole field.