Sometimes, Jimmie Johnson lets his mind drift to how he could be building on his Nextel Cup points lead, not worrying about fighting for it over the last 10 races.
If Johnson had a 165-point lead over the next driver in previous years, he would have been in a very promising position for his first NASCAR championship. Instead, NASCAR's new 10-race "Chase for the Championship" will lump him in without much of an edge with nine other drivers.
"Sitting here complaining too much about it isn't going to do me a lot of good," Johnson said yesterday after practice was rained out at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. "It's the same for everyone, and it's time to get to work."
Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team have made this season look easy, and they'll try to build on it in today's Pennsylvania 500 on the same track where Johnson overcame a caution-rules foul up to win seven weeks ago.
Johnson has been perhaps the most dominant driver this year, finishing out of the top 10 just five times. He has three wins and finished second four other times to put some distance between him and second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Gordon, the only driver close to outperforming Johnson the last six weeks, is third. Normally, Gordon would have struggled to gain ground the rest of the season on Johnson, his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. Not with the new reset system.
Is it fair? That question's been tossed around in the garages more often than some used tires.
While who's in or out will be a played-out theme over the next several weeks, Johnson knows there's no use complaining -- no matter how much he dislikes the change.
"I think on the entertainment side, the new points system is great," he said. "On the competition side, I don't think it's something a lot of teams favor, including myself. I think the champion is somebody who races all 36 weekends and proves over the long haul that they're the best team."
For Gordon, there's been little doubt who that is -- so far.
"My third year in, I won the championship. We're looking for them to be right there with what we accomplished," he said. "If the points were the same as they were in the past, they'd be right on track to do that."
Johnson has thought very little about what could have been.
"One thing I've always been good at mentally is looking at reality and what I'm really faced with," he said. "I can't sit here and fantasize about the old points system because that's not what we're racing under right now."
* IRL: Tony Kanaan won the pole for the Michigan Indy 400 with a fast lap of 215.871 mph at the D-shaped, two-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway.
It was the first pole of the season for Kanaan, who has finished in the top 10 in all nine races, the top five eight times and has won three times. He leads the points standings with 357. Buddy Rice, who will start sixth today, is second with 293.
"We had a good run, no doubt about it," Kanaan said of his qualifying drive. "This pole feels good for now . . . but I need to start thinking about the race."
Kosuke Matsuura will start alongside Kanaan in the front row after a lap of 214.718.
"We put everything together, and everything is going well," said Matsuura, an Indy car rookie.
Helio Castroneves had qualified second at 214.925, but he was moved to the back of the 22-car field because he will replace his Toyota engine for the race.
Scott Dixon will start third after running 214.328 mph. Sam Hornish Jr. will start fourth at 214.179.
* NASCAR TRUCK SERIES: Travis Kvapil moved into the lead with 17 laps remaining and held on for his first victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at Michigan International Speedway.
Kvapil finished ahead of Ted Musgrave in the Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200, surging into the lead coming off a caution in the 100-lap race and holding off several challengers.