Atlanta: Jimmie Johnson preview

Johnson looks to raise the bar in Atlanta. Team Lowe's is looking to get back on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway. HAMPTON, G.A. (March 4, 2003) - Team Lowe's Racing is coming of a disappointing 11th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor...

Johnson looks to raise the bar in Atlanta.
Team Lowe's is looking to get back on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

HAMPTON, G.A. (March 4, 2003) - Team Lowe's Racing is coming of a disappointing 11th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway...that is if you consider finishing on the lead lap and actually gaining ground in the standings after spinning out on the last lap of competition to be disappointing. If this is the worst thing that happens to Team Lowe's this season, it was great getting it over with this early in the year.

Driver Jimmie Johnson has had mixed results at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his young career. Atlanta was the site of Johnson's second Winston Cup race of his career in 2001, where he started 21st and finished 29th. Last season, Team Lowe's believed they had figured out the track with a solid third place finish, but when they returned last fall - a day filled with not one, but two spinouts - Johnson left with a 22nd-place finish and began to slide in the Winston Cup standings, eventually falling out of the championship race.

Team Lowe's will try and take the ups and downs out of its past results at Atlanta this weekend by bringing back the Lowe's Chevy that has posted three top-10 results, including the spring race at Atlanta last season.

Jimmie Johnson on the contact with the No. 40 car

"I raced with Sterling all last year and never had any contact with him. I can't believe that it was intentional. We were racing hard on the last lap and I guess he just drove in real hard - I know I did - and moved up the track and had some contact there. I hate what happened and I thought we fell back to 20th or something. Luckily, we only fell back to 11th from where we were.

"It was just a racing thing. At the time we were upset, but we reviewed the tape and talked to his guys. So it's not like I think he was doing something intentional. I was just upset at the time. We lost a few more spots and spun out and almost crashed. But you know, that was that and it's over."

Johnson on who makes the tire calls during the race

"Those calls are changed from week to week between Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and me. I called for no tires in Homestead ('02 race) and it burned us. Chad called for no tires in California and we won. So sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This time, Chad made the call for two tires to try to pick us up a few more seconds on pit road since we didn't need all 22 gallons of fuel. We needed three-quarters of a tank of gas. Unfortunately it didn't work out."

Johnson on the two-tire stop

"That's what put us in the position of being around Sterling. We came out the same distance behind the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth, race winner), but as soon as we put eight or 10 laps on the tires, our left-side tires were a lot more worn than we anticipated. And the car got really tight and I started to slow down a lot. That's how everybody caught me."

Johnson on what makes Atlanta Motor Speedway unique

"In qualifying trim, it's the fastest place we go to, so right there it adds a certain dimension to it. And then there's the race itself. The asphalt has some years on it. The way the banking works around the race track really promotes three-wide racing. We're always hoping for two-wide, and then we end up with three and sometimes four-wide. The fact that we have other options on the race track for lines and can move around and not be stuck behind someone in an aero disadvantage makes it unique."

Johnson on the high speeds at Atlanta

"Those speeds are only in qualifying. Each time we go there, it seems to be a hot topic. It's always been fast. When I was racing in a Busch car there in 2000 - before the engine changes - we'd run wide-open all the way around the track, and that was crazy. The speed difference between 190 mph and 180 mph - like the difference between the Lowe's and Atlanta tracks - you really can't tell that 10-mph difference. It's still crazy and out of control, but to notice that is pretty hard to tell."

Jimmie Johnson Fast Facts

* Currently ranks third in the Winston Cup Series Championship points

* Atlanta is the site of Johnson's first top-5 of his Winston Cup career (3rd in the Spring of 2002)

* Last season, Johnson left Atlanta in the top-10 in Winston Cup points and has remained there for 36 consecutive weeks.

* Has two top-10 finishes on the season - (Daytona - 3rd and Rockingham - 8th)

Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta Motor Speedway

* In three Winston Cup races, 12th is his average qualifying position and 18th is his average finishing position

*  His Winston Cup record at Atlanta Motor Speedway is:

    * NAPA 500 - 2001: started 21st and finished 29th
    * MBNA America 500 (Spring) - 2002: started 15th and finished 3rd
    * NAPA 500 (Fall) 2002: started 2nd and finished 22nd

* In the Busch Series, a 18th was his average qualifying position and 18th was his average finishing position

*  His Busch record at Atlanta Motor Speedway is:

    * Aaron's 312 - 2001: started 25th and finished 9th
    * Aaron's 312 - 2001: started 25th and finished 9th

No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Fast Facts

* Team Lowe's Racing will bring car 4859

* This is the Lowe's Chevy that posted top 10 finishes at Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte last season.


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