Johnson counts on continued success at Dover

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Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 30, 2012) – There may be some animals in victory lane if Jimmie Johnson is able to drive his No. 48 machine there Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman from “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” are part of a special paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s/Madagascar Chevrolet that Johnson will drive in celebration of the release of the third installment of the animated series.

Johnson’s record at the 1-mile concrete oval suggests that a visit to victory lane may not be out of the realm of possibility. He has six wins in 20 starts at the Monster Mile and leads in almost every statistical category in NASCAR’s loop data. In fact, Johnson counts the track among his favorites. A winning record surely helps put the track at the top of his list.

That record only improves after the May races. Four of his six wins have come in the late-season race, in which his average finish is 5.6. His average October Dover race finish of 6.8 certainly helped him during his run of five consecutive championships from 2006 to 2010. Even more encouraging is Johnson’s record this year at tracks less than 1.5 miles in length. In four short-track races, his lowest finish this season is12th at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. On other mile ovals this season, he has one top-five finish at Phoenix (fourth) and top-10s at Bristol, Tenn., (ninth) and Richmond, Va., (sixth).

So, after two weeks on the 1.5-mile Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway oval, it should be no surprise that Johnson is ready for the track dubbed the fastest mile oval. And if he is able to pull off his seventh win at Dover, victory lane is sure to be a zoo.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Madagascar Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:

You obviously have had a lot of success at Dover. Any idea why?

“I honestly don’t know. It just suits my driving style and I guess you could say my stats show that. You really have to learn how to get through the corners there. If you get it to turn in the center and you get good forward grip off of the corner, you will typically turn a good lap. That’s the tough part, though, figuring out how to get your car do that. I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve got for it, though.”

How important is qualifying at Dover?

“Really important. Getting a good starting spot means you get a good pit stall and that’s a big deal at Dover because pit road is so tight. I remember, back before they made some changes to the track, some teams actually had to share a stall. That happened to us, once. I think we ended up with a fairly good finish but it wasn’t one of Chad’s (Knaus, crew chief) or my guys’ favorite things to do. You just had that many more things to deal with during pit stops.”

Is your recent success really as simple as having the cars right?

“Yeah, at the end of the day the car is such a big part of it, but the process and how you get there is the tough part. Without data on a regular basis, it really boils down to the sensation the driver feels, how he communicates to his crew chief and engineers, and what adjustments they do from there. It’s tough because, at times, certain drivers are very specific about what needs to be changed. Other guys are more open-minded and just talk about the sensations and let the crew chief adjust. Either way, someone has to make a decision and it’s easy to take the team down the wrong road. Other times you go down the right road and things work and you find a little sweet spot and you can knock off some wins. That’s where we are. We have had a very solid product over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been able to communicate exactly how we need to and make the car the fastest car on the track. You still have to execute pit stops and strategy and drive the car and all that. The process through practice, qualifying and even the first half of the race, or two-thirds of the race, it’s all very critical to set up for the win. It really boils down to communication to get the car right.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson