Charlotte: Jimmie Johnson preview

Team Lowe's goes for two in a row at home Johnson looks to make it a clean sweep at LMS in May CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 2002) - Many of the crew members on Team Lowe's Racing feel some redemption following Saturday night's victory in The Winston...

Team Lowe's goes for two in a row at home
Johnson looks to make it a clean sweep at LMS in May

CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 2002) - Many of the crew members on Team Lowe's Racing feel some redemption following Saturday night's victory in The Winston on its home track, Lowe's Motor Speedway. It is well documented that Team Lowe's and its driver Jimmie Johnson dominated both of the races held at LMS last May, but were not able to bring home the hardware. For Team Lowe's, winning The Winston and capturing the largest purse in its 19-year history would alleviate some of the pain, but not all of it. Johnson still remembers all too well last season's Coca-Cola 600 and how a mere six inches cost him the victory at a race that he lead 263 out of the 400 laps.

Johnson and his teammates celebrated last weekend's victory Saturday night and Sunday, but quickly it was back to work and concentrating on getting the one that got away.

Jimmie Johnson on going into the 600 after winning The Winston

"There is a lot to learn at The Winston to get us prepared for the 600. You'll find that a lot of teams build brand new race cars. With the limited testing that we have in Winston Cup, they'll bring a new race car that hasn't seen a race track and try to test it and figure it out through all the practice sessions and The Winston to help them for the 600.

"Last year we brought a brand new race car. This year, we brought a newer car that we haven't run a lot and spent some time trying to figure it out. So it's a very good weekend for us to learn about our race cars and understand what the night racing part of the 600 will be like. We also get to be home and sleep in our own beds for a little while."

Johnson on his perspective on daylight vs. nighttime racing

"The track is so well lit at night, it helps us to see things better. I think I can see the track better at night and see more detail on the race track. I can even see pit road better - everything better. Everything else is blacked out. The only thing you can really look at is what's lit up. They've done a good job with the lights."

Johnson on the difficulty of the transition from daylight to nighttime at LMS

"Going into Turn 3 as the sun sets is kind of hard on your eyes. But beyond that, there's nothing from a driver's perspective that really bothers you or irritates you. The temperature usually comes down, obviously, and as we go into night, the track starts to gain a lot of grip. During the day - especially during the heat of the day - Lowe's Motor Speedway is one of the hardest tracks for us to drive on. It's very slick and bumpy and it's very hard to get a hold of it. So, as you start getting into the night, you're work level starts going down more and more as the grip starts coming back to you."

Johnson on the extra 100 miles

"Last year, it didn't bother me, only that I wish it was 100 miles shorter because I probably would have been in Victory Lane. I slipped through my pit on that last pit stop there and got myself deep in traffic and wasn't able to get back to the front. But that's only thing where I can see that a 500 mile race could have helped me there."

Chad Knaus on Team Lowe's confidence heading into the 600

"We've definitely grown a lot as a team since this time last year. Last year we went out there and the car was very fast for The Winston. We won the first two segments. But we weren't really sure what the car was going go do when they had the inversion. It kind of caught us off guard, whereas some other people were better prepared for that. This year, we paid a lot of attention to how the car was handling in traffic to make sure the car wouldn't get too tight after the inversion. So there was definitely a little bit of experience there. As a team, it helps us with that. And then Jimmie's experience definitely helped when it came time for the third segment.

"Rolling into the 600, we've got a better shot at a good run or a possible win in that race than we did in The Winston even though there's 43 cars in the 600. It's just because of the simple fact that you can predict a little bit better what's going to happen in the 600 than you can in The Winston. With the experience that Jimmie has gotten over the past year and the experience that the team has gotten, I feel pretty confident this weekend."

Knaus on the transition from daylight to nighttime in the 600

"Lowe's Motor Speedway is probably the single most difficult track that we have to work at as far as a crew chief and team aspect. The car handles so different from daytime to nighttime, it's just tremendous. The car will continually change as the sun sets and as the humidity goes up or down. It's a very difficult race. But the neat thing about it is that by being 600 miles in 400 laps, you make a lot of pit stops. You stop every 60 or so laps. You come in. You can make adjustments. You tend to build a lot of adjustments into the car so as nightfall comes, you can either free the car up or tighten the car up - depending on how much your car is doing. Typically, it'll tighten up and maybe you'll pull some spring rubbers out or take a little wedge out or things like that. So, yeah, it's difficult. But hopefully we're up to the task."

Knaus on if there is more satisfaction winning the 600 vs. the Daytona 500

"Yeah, probably. That's a tough one. For a crew chief, it's difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600. You definitely have to be on top of your game for a long period of time. For the Daytona 500, the crew chief also has to be on top of his game, but there's a lot of chance (involved). If your driver learns the draft, he can make something happen, if you know what I mean. In the Coca-Cola 600, if your car starts great in the first segment, but then at night it gets too tight that you can't get it worked out, then you haven't done your job. So it's probably a little bit more difficult, but a little more fun to run this race, that's for sure."

Knaus on Mr. Hendrick's comments that he and Johnson probably have the best chemistry he's ever seen

"I don't really know how it all started. We first met in late 2001 and just developed a bit of a friendship. Last year we had a lot of time together doing the rookie thing and battling hard and we had the common goal. I think that bond grew right there. I can look in his eyes and see what he's feeling. When he comes into the garage area during practice and says the race car is tight, I have a pretty good feeling about how tight it is just by the look on his face and his body language. When he rolls into the truck prior to a race, I can tell if he's switched on and he's ready to go or not. That's all part of just us learning one another. The chemistry that we've got is the simple fact that he is a great race car driver - probably the best race car driver I've ever worked with. He's able to indicate to me what that car is doing.

"The other side of it is that he knows by looking at me or listening to me what kind of mood I'm in. He knows how to approach me and talk to me about different things. That's just something that we've somehow stumbled across rather quickly and it just keeps getting better and better. I've got the utmost respect for him because like I said, he's a tremendous driver and he's got a lot of respect for me and for the way that I run the team. It works out really well."

Knaus on Ray Evernham's comment that Johnson would be one of a few drivers that could pull off 10 wins in a season

"I appreciate Ray saying that. I think that we've got a team and a driver that are capable of doing that. But there are a lot of things that happen that you can't foresee and that you can't control. If you stumble just a little bit during a race, there are five or six cars just sitting there - ready to take it away from you. It's not like back then, when Ray dominated the sport with Jeff, there weren't as many good teams that were there to capitalize when you did have an error. You were able to rally back and maybe get a victory a little easier. So, I don't think so. I don't honestly think there is anybody out there who can win 10 races a year anymore. I would like to think we could, but I really don't see it happening."

Jimmie Johnson Fast Facts * Johnson won The Winston last weekend taking home the largest purse in its 19-year history, $1 million.

* Johnson holds Lowe's Motor Speedway's Winston Cup qualifying record set last season for the 600.

* Johnson lead the most laps at 263 during last season's 600.

* Johnson ranks sixth in the Winston Cup Series championship standings, 247 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

* Johnson has five top-10 finishes (Daytona - 3rd, Rockingham - 8th, Bristol - 8th, Texas - 8th, and Martinsville - 9th).

* Johnson has been in the top 10 in NASCAR Winston Cup points for 44 consecutive weeks, the longest streak in Winston Cup.

No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet 4859 Fast Facts
This is the same Lowe's Chevy that Johnson set the track qualifying record at Lowe's Motor Speedway with for last season's 600. Johnson has driven this race car to one top 5 (Atlanta) and five top 10 finishes (Atlanta, Texas - '02 and '03, Lowe's - both fall and spring).

-hm/lowes-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Ray Evernham , Chad Knaus