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Jimmie Johnson wants to exact revenge on Dover

Jimmie Johnson's record at Dover is remarkably good. Except for 2015. Time to bounce back. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

DOVER, Del. -- Jimmie Johnson will do everything in his power to avoid the issue that ruined his 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup at Dover.

In other words, he'll do nothing.

His crew chief, Chad Knaus, and his crew will do everything in their power to avoid the issue.

In other words, they'll do pretty much, well, nothing.

A faulty axle seal could happen just as easily -- or just as rarely -- at Dover International Speedway again Sunday afternoon and eliminate Johnson from Chase contention just as it did a year ago.

"We really felt like there was nothing we could do, which is an answer that Chad Knaus does not like," Johnson said.

So Johnson, who enters the Citizen Soldier 400 at eighth in the standings with an 18-point cushion on the current cutoff spot, can't feel as if he is racing Sunday at a track where he has 10 Sprint Cup wins (which he does). All he needs to do is finish 12th and he advances in the Chase no matter what anyone else does -- something that he could do in his sleep.

But Johnson entered the 2015 race fifth in points and needing to finish just 26th. He left on the outside looking in thanks to a $50 part that came apart and resulted in Johnson being one of the four drivers eliminated.

"When the Chase starts, you're nervous every lap at every track," Johnson said. "There's no way around it. There is so much on the line. You go all year for this moment.

"Usually your past experiences cause you to be more nervous and concerned for whatever reason. So yeah, definitely nervous. ... [This is] where the past comes in and creeps into all of our minds. Maybe it's just the way I think. Maybe I'm a glass-is-half-empty type of guy."

Seriously, if any track existed where Johnson should have confidence, the 1-mile concrete oval at Dover is one. He has led 3,003 laps at the track. He has 20 top-10s in 29 starts.

He enters the race weekend feeling good about the speed his Hendrick Motorsports cars have had the past couple of months. He squandered a potential win in the Chase opener at Chicagoland two weeks ago when he sped on pit road. He followed the 12th-place finish at Chicagoland with an eighth at New Hampshire.

"I feel good that we're more competitive," Johnson said. "Now it's just time to execute in a smooth fashion. We're going to need to [in order] to make it into the final four."

There was a time when such talk didn't exist about Johnson advancing through the first three rounds of the Chase to earn one of the four spots eligible to win the championship in the finale at Homestead. Hendrick as a whole hasn't had the greatest of seasons.

But Johnson said he believes he and teammate Chase Elliott have a shot.

"In the summer leading into the Chase, we were fast enough to get out of the first round, but I wouldn't put us in the championship-caliber position," Johnson said.

"I think we're still building that way. We still need some more work to go to Homestead, lead, dominate the race and win as we think we'll need to [in order] to be the champion."

But first things first: He must make it through Dover without a dreaded seal coming apart.

"You just kind of let it roll off your shoulders and go on," Johnson said. "There's nothing we can really learn from that experience to take into this year."

The team has not made significant changes to the seals.

"They're the same axle seals I've ever raced on," Johnson said. "We all have been nervous of them, and occasionally you have a failure. It's a year behind us now and a lot of water has gone under the bridge.

"Hopefully the discussion about it doesn't do something to the universe and bring it back for us or someone else. But we don't expect to have a problem there."