Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's seventh of the ten-race 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup." After posting his 30th career victory at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Johnson is second...
Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's seventh of the ten-race 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup." After posting his 30th career victory at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Johnson is second among the 12 "Chase" drivers trailing Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 53 points. Johnson owns two victories and top-six finishes in seven of the last eight races at Atlanta.
The 1.5-mile tri-ovals like Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas Motor Speedways often produce dramatic finishes. Johnson finished second to Carl Edwards by 0.028 seconds at Atlanta on March 20, 2005 but he beat Bobby Labonte by 0.027 seconds at Lowe's on May 29, 2005.
DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON:
ATLANTA STRATEGY: "Well, you're trying to be in the top five after the last pit stop. That's a goal I typically have. It would be great if you're leading and defending. But if you run in the top five, there is enough that goes on in the last pit stop that you can pick up some spots."
LAST LAP STRATEGY: "On the last lap, if you're chasing someone, you're going where they're not. And that really dictates your move and what you do on the last lap. If you can break the plane of the guy you are chasing and get to his quarter- panel off of Turn 4, the way we side-draft each other even on the 1.5-mile tracks, you will slow him down and you will beat him to the start/finish line. It's just the cycle of it. If the start/finish line were down another couple hundred yards, that inside car would side-draft you and cycle back by and he would win. But the way the tracks are laid out, if you can break the plane of his bumper off of Turn 4, you will win the race. I've had a couple work out that way for me, and I also lost one to Carl (Edwards) that way.
"I see a lot of guys now that if it comes down to the last lap, they know how that cycle works through, and they'll give the bottom to the guy that's chasing them almost saying 'go ahead and take it, not a problem.' You can even let the guy get all the way up alongside of you because the side draft will work and get you back to the start/finish ahead of him. In a lot of cases, the high lane is the place to be. And I see from Busch and Truck racing and obviously, the Cup series, guys leading the last lap just give up the bottom lane because they know that will work. So I think that is kind of common practice now. If you're on a short track it's not going to work for you and the guy is going to motor right on by. But it depends on the track."
JEFF GORDON: "I do lay it all out there against him, but I don't feel that it's because of a friendship situation. It's basically because he's good. He's arguably the best to sit in a stock car. Statistics show that. So I know, especially in this stretch for a championship, that if I'm going to beat him, I've got to bring my A-game. And that goes for the No. 07 and the No. 20, the guys who I think are really still in this points battle. So our friendship makes things tough from time to time, considering I'm worried about teammate situations or friendships as you get into that cutthroat, decision-making process at the end of a race. But the intensity and all the things that go into it, I've got to bring my A-game and be that intense just because he's Jeff Gordon."
* Johnson will race chassis 363 on Sunday while chassis 359 will serve as the backup. Chassis 363 won at California and Las Vegas this season and won the All-Star race in 2006. Chassis 359 won at Indianapolis last year and at Atlanta this year.