JIMMIE JOHNSON
He’s Not Lost, but Five-Time Trying To Find His Way Back ‘Home’

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 9, 2012) – “The trouble, it might drag you down. If you get lost you can always be found. Just know you aren’t alone. ’Cause I’m going to make this place your home.” The lyrics from Phillip Phillips’ song “Home” sum up Jimmie Johnson’s recent runs at a place where some thought the El Cajon, Calif., native had taken up residency. (And, yes. This is the first American Idol reference in a Johnson advance.)

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Getty Images

Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, once was dominated by Johnson. He won five of six races from 2003 to 2005 and, while it may be strong to say he has lost his way to victory lane there in recent years, Johnson would definitely like to reclaim it as his home come Saturday night.

He has earned six victories, but his only one since 2005 in a points paying event was in October 2009. What may be of interest to racing analysts, pundits and fans is that Charlotte seems to be a good indicator of how Johnson will fare in the championship battle. The race has served as the midway point in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship since its inception. Except for the anomaly that was the 2006 Chase for Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team, they have left Charlotte either first or second in points in each of their championship years. In 2006, the year of his incredible rally from ninth in points early in the Chase to claim his first championship, he left Charlotte seventh in points after a runner-up finish. In the non-championship years – 2004, 2005 and 2011 – Johnson pulled out of the 1.5-mile oval eighth, seventh and eighth in points, respectively.

Another omen of possibly good things to come occurred this past May. Johnson won the non-points-paying Sprint All-Star Race in the same chassis he will race again this weekend. In the following week’s 600-miler, Johnson looked to make it a sweep at the track after his Lowe’s team won the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge earlier in the week, in addition to All Star Race. But a late miscue on pit road derailed Johnson’s chances while running up front, forcing him to pit road for a stop-and-go penalty. He went a lap down and finished 11th.

There’s little doubt this weekend that there could be more trouble that will drag him down, but Johnson knows he has the tools and crew not to get lost while trying to get find what he hopes is his home late Saturday night – Charlotte’s victory lane.

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

You haven’t been as dominant at Charlotte as you were earlier in your career. Any specific reason?

“When they repaved it, it changed things and kind of equalized the field. And we’ve been very competitive. Last year, we had probably the best car and one of the top two or three cars, and I just crashed late after trying to overcome some pit strategy issues we had. So, I feel good. I love that track. We won the All-Star Race and ran very well in the 600, so I feel like we’ll be there and be a threat and I need to be at this time of the year. We need to be on top of things.”

With Talladega over, you’ve got to feel with Charlotte you can really go into full-attack mode. Right?

“Yeah, I love the races in the Chase. They are very good tracks for us. When I look down the lineup, I get very fired up for all of them. Martinsville isn’t too far away. At Texas, we were really strong in the spring there. Phoenix is good. Homestead has been good to us. So I feel like we’ve got a lot of great racetracks coming up.”

After Charlotte, you will test Kansas prior to the race weekend. Talk about that.

“It’ll help set the stage for 2013, but the cars will be so much different when we come back that it’s going to be hard. But at least we’ll have a data file. That’s what’s really key for the teams, to get a current data file set. So, we’ll have that and I think it’s the right call to let the teams and drivers get on the track. Let’s validate the tire, that it’s right in real conditions, and let everybody get a feel for it so when we show up on Friday and the NASCAR timer is official, that we’re prepared and ready to go racing.”

Source: Jimmie Johnson media