Johnson at home at California Speedway

2005 CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITE JOHNSON AT HOME AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY FONTANA, Calif. (February 18, 2005) - Before the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season will begin with the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson has been labeled as the favorite for the ...

2005 CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITE JOHNSON AT HOME AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY

FONTANA, Calif. (February 18, 2005) - Before the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season will begin with the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson has been labeled as the favorite for the championship crown. Voting on NASCAR's media website placed Johnson first for the projected end of the season standings, with 1,765 points (10 points for each first place vote, nine for second, etc.) and 87 first-place tallies.

The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet gave fans and media alike something to talk about with his series-leading eight victories in 2004 and has finished runner-up in the championship chase the past two seasons. Johnson gave no indication that he'd let up in 2005, claiming the Budweiser Shootout and the outside pole position for the Daytona 500.

Johnson will head to Southern California next week to compete in the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway on Sunday, February 27. He clinched his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race win at the 2-mile, D-shaped oval in 2002 and has an average finishing position of eighth in four starts, including a second place showing in last year's Auto Club 500.

"The thing I like most about the track is it's in my home state, so I'm excited about that, I love coming back," he said while testing at the superspeedway earlier this month. "It's exciting for me to see NASCAR in California and on the West Coast. There were a lot of years when I was younger trying to find races on television and couldn't catch it and on top of that, races were all so far away so it's great to have so many great races in Fontana."

Don't let his success at California Speedway fool you, because it doesn't fool Johnson. "This track is difficult. On the straightaway there's such an advantage to have the air driving the race car but you're paying the price getting into the corner sometimes, it's a very challenging track to drive and our crew chiefs are working hard to make the fast laps go down. It's just a very challenging track, fortunately there's a lot of room out there and can usually find a groove that works for you," he said.

Looking forward to the 2005 NEXTEL Cup season, Johnson said, "I'm a lot more comfortable in my shoes today than I was in the start of the season last year. I know my team, I know the players, I know my ability in the car, I know what my demands are outside the race car, so I'm really more comfortable than I can ever recall being in my career.

"You know everybody says the phrase you need to lose one before you win one," he said of his near miss of the 2004 title. "I hope that was the one I was suppose to lose because I really want to win one, more than I ever have in my life, especially at this level, it's something that I have dreamt of since I was a kid and to be able to win races at this level and to be a championship contender, there's so much pride in that, I hope I can be the champion."

Join the NASCAR Acceleration as the 2005 season begins at Daytona and then comes to California Speedway for a triple-header race weekend. Tickets for the February 25-27 Auto Club 500 race weekend start as low as $30. For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE [7223] or visit www.californiaspeedway.com. - 2005 Auto Club 500 -

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson