Will ‘Luck of the Irish’ Be on His Side This Weekend?
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 13, 2011) – Jimmie Johnson hasn’t needed a four leaf clover to knock off two consecutive top-five finishes the past two weekends. Hard work and determination by the No. 48 Lowe’s team for Hendrick Motorsports has paid off and the points deficit the team found itself in after the season-opening Daytona 500 is slowly closing.
Johnson waged a last-lap battle with reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart last weekend in Las Vegas and came home with a second-place finish. He now finds himself just outside the top-20 in points. Improving his finishing position by one spot at Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway would mean a trip to victory lane, a place the five-time champ has visited once at the .533-mile high-banked concrete oval.
Being that it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little “Irish luck.” Nonetheless, the No. 48 Lowe’s team has shown it has what it takes to make a run at its first victory of the season.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
How important is Bristol to you in gaining points following Daytona?
“Yeah, points are definitely important. To be honest with you, I’m not thinking about it. We have the fortune of a lot of racing left before the Chase cutoff; and if you have DNFs throughout the course of the year – we had one at Daytona, unfortunately. And certainly with the appeal process underway, and our chance to hopefully get back those 25 points, we’ll see what happens there. And if that goes against us, it doesn’t change my mindset of finishing as well as I can and trying to win races. And Bristol: I’m so proud of the one win I have there. It’s been such a tough track on me over the years that I really want another trophy there. We’ve been very close and I think we’ll be a threat.”
Going into Bristol, aside from the points situation, what’s on your mind about that upcoming race?
“Looking ahead, and just remembering the rhythm that I have finally found; it took me about nine or 10 years of laps over there to finally figure it out (laughs). So, I’m just trying to remember that rhythm that you drive there. It is a very different racetrack to drive.”
What do you do when you’re not racing to learn how to do restarts or to get better reports?
“Well, we have a new element this year. I’ve usually been really good at that stuff. But the fuel injection is different, and the mapping that we develop for that is quite a bit different than years past. The first one (on Sunday at Las Vegas), I know that I just jumped on the gas too hard and spun ’em. That was my fault. The second restart, I didn’t spin ’em. I felt really good. He (Tony Stewart) was still running away from me. So we can go in and look at the data, not much data, but the little bit we have, and hopefully we can find a direction to help the car accelerate a little bit better up through second gear.”