HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 2, 2012) – Trying to find something positive in the three restrictor-plate races run this season by Jimmie Johnson is like getting pocket aces while playing Texas Hold ’em – difficult.
The one positive is the havoc that took place on the track at each of those events hasn’t been entirely of Johnson’s making.
While the stats were in Johnson’s favor when he scored a fourth-place finish last weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, this weekend’s numbers don’t necessarily show a winning hand.
Talladega is Johnson’s worst track on the circuit for driver rating. He also has only five top-five finishes in 21 starts. However, the “wild card” aspect of this race means anything can happen.
Johnson does have two wins (May 2006 and April 2011) and has earned four poles (April and October 2002, October 2009 and April 2010) at Talladega.
His three plate-race results this year aren’t necessarily indicative of his previous seasons on NASCAR’s longest and fastest racetracks. He was caught up in an incident before completing two laps in February’s Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
He suffered an engine issue in April at Talladega. And he was caught up in another on-track incident at Daytona in July. However, he has never failed to finish at least one plate race in a season.
He came close in 2010 after having a problem in all three early season races. He went on to finish seventh in the one that mattered most, Talladega’s October Chase race, a stat he hopes to equal or better this weekend.
So while the 43 competitors on Sunday may not have much say in the cards they are dealt at the 2.66-mile Talladega oval, Johnson and the Lowe’s team hope their draw turns out to be no joke, and they are able to ace the notoriously fickle Alabama superspeedway.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
Assess your chances heading into Talladega. You have said it’s the wild card of the Chase. “Well, as you can probably see from our finishes this year, we haven’t had a lot of luck at the restrictor-plate tracks.
It definitely is the one track in the Chase I’ve kind of been a little concerned about. There are a lot of great tracks for the 48 coming up in the Chase, but this one is definitely one where anything can happen.
There are so many things that are out of your control. There is a lot of room on this track to move around though, obviously, and try things. I think the odds are in our favor to be able to finish one of these restrictor-plate races this year. At least I hope so.”
You have crashed out of all three restrictor-plate races so far this year. Do you have any special plans for how to make it to the end at Talladega? “I heard NASCAR was considering dropping that track from the Chase. I’m thrilled about Talladega being off the schedule or the points not counting.
How about that? That would be good (laughs). Well, the odds are against me based on our finishes, but eventually we’ve got to finish one. So, hopefully it’s this fall race and it’s a good position.”
Can you talk about what your emotions and feelings were coming to this track for the first time back in 2000 when you competed in the Nationwide Series? (Started 28th and finished 29th in April 2000) “I remember being really excited to be in the draft and to be at a big track.
The Daytona race we missed, we didn’t qualify for. It was my first plate race. I went in with high hopes and just thought you could hold it wide open and create moves and things would happen.
I quickly learned there is a specific art to work the draft and to be competitive there. I didn’t find those skills that day. I’ve been working on them ever since. It’s just a different deal. I really was excited to be in a big pack.
I grew up watching this stuff. I enjoyed watching the plate races and all that went on with it and I wanted to be one of those guys. I finally had my chance.”
Source: Jimmie Johnson