Fontana II: Jimmie Johnson preview

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to California Speedway for Sunday night's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. Johnson leads the point's race by 7 points over Matt Kenseth. Johnson and Kenseth are the only drivers who...

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to California Speedway for Sunday night's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. Johnson leads the point's race by 7 points over Matt Kenseth. Johnson and Kenseth are the only drivers who have clinched places in the 2006 "Chase for the Championship" that begins at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sept. 17. Only California and Richmond remain before the "Chase."

Johnson, an El Cajon, Calif. native will drive the No. 48 "Jimmie Johnson Foundation" Monte Carlo in Saturday's Busch Series race. This race along with the October race at Lowe's Motor Speedway will be his final of three Busch appearances in 2006. The foundation announced this month its commitment to raise $600,000 to build Victory Lanes, a four-lane bowling alley at Kyle and Pattie Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C.

DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON QUOTES:

CALFORNIA: "California is a great track for us. I think everybody likes it when you have a little bit more room - especially this time of the year. Everybody is just in crunch mode. Every point counts. I think that's a common reaction from all the drivers."

RUNNING BOTH THE CUP AND BUSCH RACES: "I'm excited about going to Fontana. We have the Busch race on Saturday, which is my second one of three. And, Lowe's has been nice enough to let me run a foundation car, so we'll have a Jimmie Johnson Foundation car out at the track, which will be really exciting for (wife) Chandra and myself. And then we're excited about the Cup race because we finished second there earlier in the year. Even though Michigan looked like an up and down day for us, we still had a lot of speed. And I know that the things we had going on at Michigan are going to cross over and apply in Fontana. So hopefully we can get a win, or a nice solid finish and keep the momentum going into Richmond. So there are a lot of good things coming up."

WILL IT BE A RELIEF FOR YOU WHEN THE RACE TO THE CHASE IS OVER? "Yeah, I think so. The first goal is to get locked in. The second goal is to be the champion going into the final 10, or be the point-leader I should say. We'll just take it from there. Either way we're going to be in great shape for the championship. We've gained a lot of strength this year and a lot of maturity."

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT WHAT IS GOING TO GET YOU THROUGH THE LAST 10 RACES? "We've matured as a team and I think there's a lot that comes with that. I think we're a lot stronger race team and a lot more mature. We're just smarter and more mature and a better educated race team right now."

WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR APPROACH FOR THESE LAST FEW RACES IN THE CHASE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "No, you can't change your approach. I think we're all in a points-racing mindset from Daytona on. And it's not that you're just going to ride around and be happy to finish fifth, but every point counts. You need to pass the guy in front of you. You need to try to win races. You've got to continue to have that attitude."

YOU'VE HAD SO MANY RUNS THAT HAVE STARTED OUT BADLY BUT ENDED UP IN TOP 10: "I think it's good. It's a great boost for the team. Each year, we've been some adversity that we've had to overcome. We've been through a lot of different things - some things that we certainly didn't want with the tragedy of the airplane going down a couple of years ago. We fought through that and came back. So, it's going to be a long 10 races. And as we all know, a lot can happen in two races, let alone 10. If you can make it clean throughout the final 10, I think you'll be a shoo-in for the championship. But the last couple of years, everybody has had a problem and has had something to fight back from."

-credit: hm

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