Watkins Glen: Round 22 preview

Standings leader Jimmie Johnson on a mission to reverse previous August finishes DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 8, 2006) -- As the mid-way point of the Race to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title approaches Sunday at Watkins Glen ...

Standings leader Jimmie Johnson on a mission to reverse previous August finishes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 8, 2006) -- As the mid-way point of the Race to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title approaches Sunday at Watkins Glen International, leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) is looking to do something he has had difficulty achieving the past two seasons -- maintaining the series lead during the month of August.

Johnson, who solidified his top spot in the standings with an impressive win last Sunday at Indianapolis, has either led the series standings or been among the top five during the late summer months for the past three seasons. However, a string of misfortunes have resulted in some considerable heartburn the past two years.

* In 2004, Johnson experienced engine failure at Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Michigan that resulted in him slipping from the top spot to second place.

* In 2005, Johnson began the month of August with a 38th-place finish at Indy and ended with a 36th-place showing at Bristol. In between, he finished fifth at Watkins Glen and 10th at Michigan, but remained second in the standings.

But if Johnson's performance last Sunday is any indication of things to come, that trend could be reversed in 2006.

Johnson's first opportunity to "kiss the bricks" at fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway translated to his fourth victory of this season and the 22nd of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career. He enters Sunday's event at Watkins Glen, with 10 top-10 finishes in his last 11 races. As he continues his quest for his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship, Johnson knows he must keep up the pace in order to stay at the top.

"It's too early to say we have broken the pattern," he said, "but you know, this is a great start. I think we are all going to learn together as these next few weeks unfold. We got over a big hurdle; one that has really plagued us in the past. But, it's too early to get confident about anything."

While he will be seeking for his initial road course win, Johnson has had reasonable success at The Glen. His Driver Rating (117.7) is actually his best for the remaining five tracks in the Race to the Chase and ranks second among series regulars. Johnson has a pair of top-10 finishes in his four career starts there (fifth in 2005 and fourth in 2003), but struggled to a 40th-place finish in 2004. As he enters this week's competition with a 107-point lead over second place Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Johnson looks to ride the wave of momentum that has permeated his race team since his season-opening victory at the Daytona 500.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson