Atlanta II: Jimmie Johnson preview

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. The race in Hampton, Ga. marks the seventh of ten 2006 "Chase for the Championship" races. Johnson is third in...

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. The race in Hampton, Ga. marks the seventh of ten 2006 "Chase for the Championship" races. Johnson is third in the points race, 41 behind leader Matt Kenseth. Johnson's victory at Martinsville Sunday was the fourth of the season, 23rd of his career and seventh in the 26 "Chase" races since it started in 2004.

DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON QUOTES:

ON ATLANTA: "The asphalt they have used is older technology and it is real abrasive and chews the tires up. Handling is a premium. The pace slows down so you can run side by side and you can look for other lanes to race in. That really makes for good racing. I think the new tracks, and Charlotte is a good example of it, they almost did too good of a job. The asphalt is so smooth and tightly compacted we have to run an extremely hard tire, the tire never gives up and we run qualifying laps all night long. We run side by side and it is hard to pass. Atlanta is a great track. Some day they are going to have to resurface it and we will be faced with issues of a new surface there. But right now it has aged perfectly. It is probably is one of the best places to challenge drivers."

WAS THE WIN AT MARTINSVILLE A SPARK TO KEEP THE TEAM GOING? "I don't think the win was necessary as far as the spark for the team. We've had the spark and speed and excitement and desire. The fire's been lit. We've just unfortunately had some bad luck. And now everything has balanced out and we're back in the middle of it (the Chase). So I look at the Chase and think at New Hampshire, we were competitive and in the top five and had bad luck. At Dover it was the same; we had bad luck. At Kansas we were leading the most laps but didn't win the race because of that crazy deal at the end. Talladega we should have won. Charlotte, we were competitive and finished where we should have. And then (we won) last weekend (at Martinsville). So I really think we've had a lot of strength in the Chase and we are excited to be back in the middle of it."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN WE GOT HOME AFTER THE WIN AT MARTINSVILLE? "It was great. We were very proud for a lot of reasons. To be back in the points battle is a great situation, but to also win at Martinsville -- under the circumstances with the plane going down there a couple of years ago -- it was just a very proud evening at home."

IS IT GOOD THAT THERE ARE SO MANY DRIVERS WITH A CHANCE? "I think it's great for our sport. It's real tough on the teams and drivers, but it's great for the sport."

Race Notes

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Johnson has completed 3,152 of 3.173 laps in his ten starts at Atlanta. He has an average starting position of 9.8 and an average finish of 11.8 -- second best of all "Chase" drivers. Johnson has led 176 laps in three of his ten races. He won this race in 2004.

Chase

Johnson is one of three drivers to participate in all three "Chase" battles. He finished second in the 2004 "Chase" and fifth last year. This will be Johnson's fifth consecutive season finishing in the top ten in points.

Johnson owns seven "Chase" victories, the most of any driver, and led 855 laps but suffered five finishes outside the top 30 in his 25 career "Chase" races.

Johnson is the only driver to post five top-ten starts in this season's "Chase." His 11.8 average finish is second best of the ten "Chase" drivers.

Year

Johnson was the point leader after all but four races in the 26-race regular season.

Johnson's five victories is second only to Kasey Kahne's six victories.

Johnson owns 20 top ten finishes this season -- the most of any driver.

Streak

Johnson has been among the top 10 in points for 101 consecutive races, since March 2004 which is the longest current streak. Johnson is fifth on the consecutive races in the modern era's point's top 10 list. Dale Earnhardt's 174 races tops the list.

Atlanta March Race

Johnson didn't battle for the victory like he expected in the rain-delayed race, but a sixth-place finish on the treacherous 1.54-mile Georgia track is an accomplishment. Many drivers suffered tire problems or saw their race ruined by an accident, but Johnson made it all 500 miles. Johnson started 14th and ran near the front of the field much of the race taking over second place in the middle of the race. In the last 100 laps Johnson mounted a charge to the front but a loose handling car along with slightly changing track conditions (the sun started to come out late in the race) kept him battling with the top cars for position.

-credit: hm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson