You’ve Got To Hold On
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 1, 2012) – The band Alabama Shakes, founded in Athens, Ala., may have some good advice for Jimmie Johnson this weekend. If he wants to make it to victory lane after Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, he’ll have to “hold on” to his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. Contact during the fast-paced, inches-apart racing that characterizes the 2.66-mile high-banked tri-oval can make for a long day for competitors who aren’t able to keep their cars out of trouble.
Johnson was able to do just that last April when he won. And, as a two-time Talladega winner, he knows that sometimes “you’ve got to wait” for the right moment to make your move to the front. Practicing that patience could mean the difference between a visit to Gatorade victory lane and the post-race scrap pile.
That feast-or-famine type of racing has characterized Johnson’s runs in the 20 races in which he has competed at Talladega. The spring race has been slightly more successful for the California native. Johnson’s two victories came in April 2011 and May 2006. His win last year tied the Sprint Cup record for closest margin of victory (.002 seconds) as he beat Clint Bowyer to the line.
Anyone who says championships can be won or lost at the fall race may be correct if looking at Johnson’s record. During the 2007 to 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson never finished outside the top-10 as he went on to win the championship each of those years. The race in 2006 was the lone exception. Johnson was passing Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the lead on the final lap when Brian Vickers made contact with Johnson’s left rear, sending him into Earnhardt before both spun into the infield. Johnson would finish 24th and leave Talladega eighth in the standings, 156 points out of first. However, he would overcome what seemed like an insurmountable deficit in the remaining races. He finished in the top-two at the next five races to set up the season finale in Homestead, where Johnson finished ninth to earn his first career championship.
Johnson’s record on superspeedways more than 2 miles in length includes: 109 starts, 13 wins, 37 top-five finishes and 58 top-10s. He has finished on the lead lap 85 times. Of 20,458 laps, he has led 2,319. His highest starting average (9.6) comes on this track classification.
Johnson, however, is still looking for his first victory of the season and the historic 200th for Hendrick Motorsports. In nine races run this season, he has finished outside the top-10 only twice. Alabama may be where he “holds on” for his first win of the 2012 season.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports: www.twitter.com/jimmiejohnson, www.twitter.com/lowesracing and www.twitter.com/teamhendrick
Do you think we will see the same type of racing in Talladega that we did in Daytona?
“Well, I was around for about 2.5 miles in Daytona (laughs). But I do think we will see some of the same type of racing. I think the warmer temperatures are going to play a factor, especially with the pack-type racing we will have. The elevated temperatures are going to make it harder for us to push and keep cool in the pack. It’s definitely going to be a thinking man’s race.”
Looking at your stats, it appears that doing well in the fall race may play a factor in how you do in the championship. Do you think that’s true?
“I guess I didn’t realize we’d done that well in the fall. I think it might just be good fortune. The championship can be pretty stressful and it’s a different kind of atmosphere around that race. We all are hoping just to get out of there with a decent finish. The spring race, you can race and have fun. Points are important, but it’s not the same kind of pressure like you have during the Chase.”
Mother’s Day is next weekend. Talk about your favorite memory of your mom and how special your mom is to you.
“I think of all the sacrifices my parents made, I think the biggest was my mom enabling myself and my brothers to race. She raised a household of three boys and missed out on a lot of girly things, if you will, with three rough-and-tough boys racing. I appreciate all of her sacrifices. I love her to death. Mother’s Day has a whole new meaning for my situation, more directly, with being a father and what it means to (wife) Chani. I’m very excited about Mother’s Day.”