Johnson looks for the elusive win at Michigan

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Johnson looks for the elusive win at Michigan

JIMMIE JOHNSON
‘My Little Girl’ and Other Important Things at Michigan

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 12, 2012) – “Hey, little girl, look what you’ve done. You’ve gone and stole my heart and made it your own.” Lyrics to singer Jack Johnson’s “My Little Girl” aren’t far from the truth if you’ve ever seen Jimmie Johnson (no relation) with his daughter, Genevieve. And while getting an elusive win at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn Sunday is on the to-do list for the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, nothing is sure to put a smile on his face more than celebrating Father’s Day as the proud dad of his favorite 2-year-old.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Dad certainly will have some work to do if he wants to have a family picture in victory lane after the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday. Michigan has been a bit of a thorn in the No. 48 team’s side. Fuel mileage has spoiled victory hopes on several occasions. The track also is one of only five on the circuit where Johnson has never celebrated one of his 57 victories. Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the others.

Johnson arguably came closest to reaching Michigan’s victory lane in 2009. Johnson dominated the June race, leading 146 of 200 laps. He started third and was in position for the win when he stayed out while most of the other drivers pitted during a caution on lap 152. Fuel was a concern for the majority of the competitors, including Johnson. He restarted third and eventually caught leader Greg Biffle. Victory wasn’t to be, however, as Johnson ran out of gas after taking the white flag and finished 22nd.

It was nearly déjà vu that August as Johnson started fourth, led 133 laps and was in position to win late in the race. The team called in Johnson on lap 149 for four tires and fuel, but, despite saving gas under caution while leading, he wasn’t able to make it the final 51 laps, running out of fuel in the final two laps and finishing 33rd.

Fuel won’t be the only challenge at Michigan this weekend. With another track repaving project complete at the 2-mile oval, the Sprint Cup garage will work from new notes and lists throughout the weekend. There is one task on Johnson’s to-do list for Sunday, though, and that’s knocking the number of tracks where he hasn’t won down to four. If that happens, there’s sure to be a few hearts stolen if Johnson ends up in victory lane on Father’s Day with the little girl “who stole his heart and made it his own.”

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

Talk about being a father and Father’s Day this weekend.

“Mother’s Day had a much different meaning this year and Father’s Day will, as well, now that Chani and I are parents. I’m actually more excited for the ‘MRO (Motor Racing Outreach) Father/Child Little Event’ that they put on for Father’s Day. Last year, Genevieve was so small, we couldn’t participate. We just watched. So this year, I’ll be there in the motorhome lot on Saturday night trying to carry an egg on a spoon and participating in all the relay races and all that. I’ll be able to compete this year, so I’m really excited about that (laughs).”

Did you get some good information about the April test at Michigan? And what information can you use from racing last weekend at the newly paved track at Pocono?

“I talked to Matt Kenseth. He was at the test, and Jeff Gordon was there, too. There are different ways that we describe things and, from the expression that both Jeff and Matt had on their faces when they described the speed at Michigan, I know it’s going to be exciting. So I’m looking forward to the test (Thursday). Testing will be helpful for all the teams. And then we’ll see what it does. And it’s just going to be blistering fast. I’ll know more when I get there. I want to make sure I have plenty of coffee to be awake when I get on track (laughs).

“The speeds and the shapes of the tracks are different, of course. But any more, the air flow over the car is where we find the bulk of our grip. So the fact that the speeds at Pocono are very high and the same with the speeds at Michigan, there will be some things that cross over (between the two tracks). So after leaving the Pocono test and race and we head to Michigan, actually it will probably be closer than it would if we came from a short track because the speeds in the way you set the car up due to the aerodynamics would be the same.”

What can we expect from the race this weekend?

“I honestly can’t tell you. We will have to wait and see what happens with the test. Everything is kind of up in the air right now. We’ll get there on Thursday and see what we’ve got. We will have a good show for Sunday, if last weekend’s race is any indication.”

Between now and when the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship starts, you’ll have two races at Pocono that have been shortened and on a repaved surface, two at Michigan on a repaved surface, and one at Bristol, which will be sort of repaved. Do you think those five races will have a bigger impact on the season than they typically do due to the circumstances?

“I haven’t thought about that. Yes, I do. Bristol, it’s kind of a wild card. I know there has been a lot of caution-free racing there of late, but stuff does happen and, when somebody does get turned around, it can take out a bunch of cars. When I think of Michigan and Pocono, there are really three or four cars that are in the mix every time. I think the repave shuffles that up some and brings more guys into the mix, so it could have an impact.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson