Bristol II: Jimmie Johnson preview

Team Lowe's looks to shine under the lights at Bristol Johnson knows action will be fast and furious on the world's fastest half-mile BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 19, 2003) - To fuel or not to fuel, that is the question. Last week, Team Lowe's Racing...

Team Lowe's looks to shine under the lights at Bristol
Johnson knows action will be fast and furious on the world's fastest half-mile

BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 19, 2003) - To fuel or not to fuel, that is the question. Last week, Team Lowe's Racing was stuck in what now seems a weekly occurrence in Winston Cup - either gamble and push the fuel mileage or be conservative and pit in the waning moments of the race, sacrificing a possible top-10 finish in order to make sure the racecar will finish the race.

Twice this season Team Lowe's was able to stretch its fuel mileage. The first time it put Team Lowe's in victory lane at New Hampshire for its second points race victory of the season. The second time resulted in Team Lowe's highest points finish on a road course, notching a fourth place finish at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago.

Last weekend in Michigan, it came down to fuel mileage once again. The choices were to either pit and finish in the 20s or stay on the track, try to conserve fuel and finish in the top-five. The team decided to stay out, but the gamble didn't pay off, as driver Jimmie Johnson radioed in that he was out of fuel with just two laps remaining. Johnson admitted it was a frustrating position to be in, but on the other hand, racecars that pitted in the final 15 laps also finished in the 20s. So in retrospect, Johnson only lost five places overall due to the fuel shortage.

Heading back to one of NASCAR's most popular races, the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Team Lowe's is looking for redemption from last season's Sharpie 500.

In the beginning stages of the race, Team Lowe's suffered the effects of a flat tire that left it two laps down and struggling to retain its early form. Just when you thought Johnson was going to get a lap back on a restart in the middle of the race, the Lowe's Chevy's rear wheels were taken off the ground as soon as the green flagged dropped, sending it into the inner retaining wall and Johnson out of contention.

This weekend, Team Lowe's is hoping to replicate its strong spring finishes at Bristol - two top-10s. During these races, Johnson showcased his patience and short track driving experience that have many competitors and fans taking notice of his ability to compete on any type of track and surface on the circuit.

Jimmie Johnson Quotes

ARE AERO PACKAGES AND FUEL MILEAGE PROBLEMS AT BRISTOL?

"Yes, they are. If you remember back to when Elliott Sadler won his first event there, he was the first one to get enough fuel and tires to go the distance. He was able to hold off and go 150 laps or so to win that race. Once again, we've got a tire that's so good that you can afford to come in as early as possible in the event where you can get enough fuel and new tires to go the rest of the way. That's kind of the way the game is played. The only tracks where I see it really not being played out that way are Darlington and Rockingham and tracks like that where it's really abrasive and tear tires off the car."

ARE THE DRIVERS AND FANS COMPLAINING THAT THEY JUST WANT TO SEE RACING, NOT A FUEL MILEAGE GAME?

"It is a different type of racing that's come into play here lately. It's frustrating at times. You love it if you win from it and if you lose from it, you're frustrated. Last week (at MIS) we ran out of gas with two (laps) to go, but at Loudon, I loved it. So that's just the nature of the game right now."

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO IMPROVE UPON WEEK TO WEEK AND BEYOND?

"I want to improve on what we did last year. Obviously I'd love to win the championship. But unless Matt (Kenseth) has huge problems, and it doesn't look like that is going to happen, we still have an opportunity to finish in the top three. Last weekend was a huge opportunity for us to move in that direction, but unfortunately it didn't pan out for us. With Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon having the problems they did, we could have probably been third in points and very close to second. We've still got a lot of races left and we'll just have to see what happens. But I want to improve on last year and get ready for next year."

WHAT UPCOMING TRACKS WILL BE MORE DIFFICULT IN THE CLOSING RACES OF THE SEASON? WHICH ONES DO YOU NEED MORE WORK ON?

"Rockingham is probably the track that I'm still looking to conquer. Every other track I feel that I've been able to make big strides and feel very comfortable about it. At Bristol, I'm a little worried about qualifying. I still can't seem to qualify well there, but I can race well there."

Jimmie Johnson Fast Facts

Johnson ranks sixth overall in the Winston Cup Series championship standings, 63 points out of third place.

Johnson has two wins (Lowe's Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway), five top-five (Daytona - 3rd, Lowe's Motor Speedway - 1st, Chicagoland - 3rd, New Hampshire - 1st and Watkins Glen - 3rd) and nine top-10 finishes (Daytona - 3rd, Rockingham - 8th, Bristol - 8th, Texas - 8th, Martinsville - 9th, Lowe's Motor Speedway - 1st, Chicagoland - 3rd, New Hampshire - 1st and Watkins Glen - 4th).

Johnson has led in 10 out of the 23 races this season (Daytona, Las Vegas, Talladega, Lowe's Motor Speedway, Dover, Pocono, Pepsi 400, Chicagoland, ew Hampshire and Michigan).

Johnson has been in the top-10 in NASCAR Winston Cup points for 56 consecutive weeks, the longest current streak in Winston Cup.

Johnson won his first pole position of 2003 at Pocono Raceway.

Johnson is only the seventh driver in Winston Cup history to win a race starting from 35th or worse.

Johnson has five career Winston Cup victories and five career Winston Cup pole positions. * Johnson won The Winston all-star event at Lowe's Motor Speedway, taking home the largest purse in its 19-year history, $1 million.

No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Fast Facts

* Team Lowe's Racing will bring car 4850. This is the same Lowe's Chevy that Johnson drove in all three of his Bristol races. Johnson also drove this Chevy to victory lane twice last season in Dover.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler