JIMMIE JOHNSON
Pocono Finish Predictable?

Victory lane: winner Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Victory lane: winner Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 1, 2012) – Jimmie Johnson is in an odd, yet productive, and some may say predictable cycle when it comes to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Johnson has won each of the races leading into Pocono’s 400-mile events this year. He won at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in June and leading into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400, Johnson is once again coming off a victorious weekend. In fact, it was a record-setting weekend as Johnson won an impressive fourth Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The win also put him in elite company as one of five drivers with four or more wins. Jeff Gordon, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears and Michael Schumacher are the others.

Johnson’s cycle of finishes the past two seasons at Pocono has been just as consistent. He has finished fourth in his last three races at the “Tricky Triangle.” A win at Indianapolis is often an indicator of a good Pocono run, both tracks having similar driving characteristics with their unconventional shapes. However, Johnson’s two wins at Pocono occurred in 2004, when he swept the season, meaning he has never won at the 2.5-mile triangular oval in any of his championship years of 2006 through 2010.

He has been fairly consistent at the odd-shaped track, however. His nine top-five finishes and 14-top-10s in 21 races places him second in NASCAR’s driver rating system. Except for a 42nd-place finish in June 2007, he has finished 15th or better in every race.

Johnson’s successful run at Indy bodes well for a good finish at Pocono. Could it be another fourth-place showing, making it his 11th top-five finish of the year? Or could it be a victory, which would be his fourth of the season? The outcome is predictably unknown.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:

Are you looking forward to going back to Pocono?

“I am excited to go back because we had a really strong car there in the last race. I think we had a few track-position issues to overcome and a two speeding issues, but we still managed a top-five finish. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) called a great race. He got me some track position on two tires. The pit stops were flawless and we had a fast car. After last week’s win at the Brickyard, the entire team is excited to get to Pocono and keep the momentum going.”

If the Chase started tomorrow you’re among the top seeds and have a lot of momentum. Every time you’ve won Indy, you’ve gone on to win a championship. Do you feel you’re back on top of this Sprint Cup game, as you sure appear right now?

“I feel, from a performance standpoint, we’re as strong as we’ve ever been. We’ve had issues late in a race that cost us track position for a variety of reasons, and that’s the part we need to make sure is buttoned up before the Chase starts and carry that through the Chase. But, from a performance standpoint, these are amazing racecars. We’ve made a lot of progress through the offseason, and then, getting started this year. I feel really good about the Chase. I’m ready for it to start.”

You’ve said how the communication between you and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte (Earnhardt’s crew chief) is as good as it’s ever been in the shop. Are the Nos. 48 and 88 co-favorites for the title?

“Yeah, I’d kind of look further back and think it started around Darlington with the 200th win for our shop. I mean, the 88 and the 48 have been so close to a win, and that was the first win for us, and then things started rolling from there. Clearly, Junior’s win was huge and put that stamp, that seal of approval, on what they’re doing in their minds. Stevie and Junior have really brought a lot to the table. I have to say, from Pocono to now, the stuff that Junior has liked in the car and what he’s felt has opened up doors for us to pursue and a road for us to go down where we’ve made our stuff better. There’s a lot of confidence in our shop with both teams, and the communication is as good as it’s ever been. I’m happy to see Steve as confident as he is, and Junior, both, because we can really lean on them and pull from them, and it’s a two-way street. That’s something that’s new this year, and I’m proud of both of them for where they’re at and where our whole team is.”

Source: Jimmie Johnson media