Johnson ready for racing in the desert at Phoenix 500

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JIMMIE JOHNSON
Phoenix Powerhouse

Maybe it’s his Southern California roots, but something about racing in the desert suits five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. The driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet grew up racing motorcycles in and around his hometown of El Cajon, Calif. He migrated to the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) Stadium Racing Series in the early 1990s, and eventually graduated to buggies and trucks racing on off-road stadium layouts and desert racing series, including the Short Course Off-Road Drivers Association Series (SODA).

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

While racing on the paved, mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway is not exactly analogous to the aforementioned series, there’s no denying that racing there suits him, and he hopes to continue his current hot streak in Sunday’s penultimate round of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the AdvoCare 500k. Phoenix is one of Johnson’s best tracks. He has finished every one of the 18 Sprint Cup races he has run there. He has four wins – November 2007, 2008, 2009 and April 2008 – and owns the best driver rating among active drivers with a 118.4 average of a possible 150 points. In his 18 starts, only three finishes were outside the top-10, and 12 were top-fives.

Since 2005, when Phoenix was added to the 10-race Chase schedule, Johnson has finished first or second four times (2006-2009) with a seventh-place finish in 2005 and 14th place in last year’s battle. In this season’s March race, he finished fourth on what was a newly configured surface. He expects nothing less this time around.

With just two races left to decide NASCAR’s 2012 champion, Johnson and the No. 48 team have shown they aren’t just powerhouses at Phoenix as they are riding a two-race win streak – both wins coming from the pole – that allowed them to regain and retain the points lead the last two weekends at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. As good as his stats are at Phoenix, Johnson knows stats don’t win the race. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to be riding a hot streak into town.

Jimmie Johnson

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Preview
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson, phoenix