Dynamic Duos Abound in New England
In fact, there are more than just championship comparisons between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who have three championships together to Johnson’s and Knaus’ five. The demeanors of both seem to parallel, too. The intensity and meticulous nature Belichick is known for in the National Football League is matched by Knaus’ reputation as a tireless, attention-to-detail, task master in the Sprint Cup garage. Their teams are led by two men whose actions on the playing field have made them the best in their respective sports. Two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Brady and four-time Driver of the Year Johnson are known for their calm demeanor in pressure situations, and their stats prove it.
Both duos have a big task at hand this weekend, the Patriots traveling to Baltimore after the first-ever loss in a home opener for Brady as a Patriot. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Racing team is trying to maintain its runner-up spot in the championship standings in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the mile oval in Loudon, N.H., after narrowly missing victory lane at last Sunday’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship opener at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Johnson has had success at New Hampshire but he has been inconsistent there during the Chase. He won his first championship in 2006 after finishing 39th at New Hampshire. He finished 18th last season, the first time since 2005 that he failed to win the Sprint Cup title. More than half of the 21 races he has run at the flat oval have resulted in top-10 finishes, including three of his last five outings starting with his third career victory at the track in the June 2010 race.
In last September’s Chase race, Johnson had contact with Kyle Busch while running for 13th place with less than 25 laps to go. He nursed the car around the track in the closing laps for an 18th-place finish. In the race this past July, Johnson had a fast Lowe’s Chevy but an ill-timed caution hurt his shot at a win. His July 2010 ended a seven year win drought at the track.
For the No. 48 team, with Knaus calling the shots and Johnson at the wheel, the dynamic duo won’t necessarily need a superhero-type effort to make it to victory lane in New England, although it wouldn’t hurt. Odds are Belichick and Brady won’t need one, either.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
How important is it to qualify well at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? “It’s really important. You go from qualifying to race strategy, meaning two tires when you take fuel, all to maintain track position. It is so tough to pass there, especially for the lead. We all know how important wins are. You can go from 20th to 10th and that is one thing, but when you get in the top-10, it’s a whole different game. In order to race for the win, you need to have solid qualifying, solid strategy and maintain track position all day long.”
What do you need at New Hampshire in order to have a solid run and a good finish? “It’s tough because of the balance, when you have clean air and the whole racetrack to yourself, you need your racecar to drive a certain way. When you get in traffic, you need the car to turn a lot stronger to run a tighter radius and inside of someone. It’s tough to blend those two worlds. That’s the thing we fight so much. We work in practice running by ourselves. When you get in the race, you are rarely by yourself. Then, you’re trying to find a way to make your car work in traffic.”
Source: Jimmie Johnson media