Nicknames Can Be Dangerous
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 8, 2012) – The historic track located in Darlington, S.C., the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, has many nicknames associated with it – “Too Tough To Tame,” “Darlington stripe.” We will stay away from “The Lady in Black” because Jimmie Johnson knows better than to refer to a lady as temperamental and unpredictable, the origins of the nickname. Instead, he would rather focus on good qualities, like maybe a little luck from said lady, who, by the way, hasn’t been so kind to Johnson lately.
If “luck be a lady,” preferably Saturday night, Johnson will leave the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval with no Darlington stripes evident on his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, and he’ll erase the not-so-lucky memories of the last few races he has run at the oldest track on the tour.
Johnson has earned only a May 2009 top-10 finish in his last three visits to Darlington, and he did not finish the race in May 2010. But his record isn’t as bad as the last few races may indicate. In fact, it is somewhat impressive as Johnson is one of only 25 drivers – including David Pearson, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison – in the sport’s more than 60-year history to earn multiple wins at Darlington. Those wins were on the track’s notoriously rough surface. Johnson reveled in the racing there at one time, calling it one of his favorite tracks. And he considered it an honor to have won on what is widely thought of as one of the toughest tracks to tame.
The 2004 season was his most prolific at the track, when he pulled off the season sweep. Meanwhile, his 2010 outing would be quite the opposite. He failed to finish (placed 36th) after being involved in two minor incidents early in the race before being taken out for good on a hard but unintentional hit involving A.J. Allmendinger on lap 180 that totaled both drivers’ cars.
Overall, Johnson has finished outside the top-15 only twice (May 2010 and April 2003). With a little luck, he will add to his win total, which would move him even further up the list alongside some of the all-time greats who have won at Darlington. Those winners even may have had a little bit of lady luck on their side to help avoid those Darlington stripes that can sometimes spell disaster at the track that can be temperamental and unpredictable, and also a little too tough to tame.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
What is it going to take to get back to victory lane at Darlington?
“On the old track, when it was worn out and ugly, nasty to drive, we were great there. Since they have repaved it, it’s been a bit of a challenge. It’s just so tough to pass there. I think your race strategy, fuel strategy, tire strategy is really more important than speed in the car. So hopefully we play that game right and put ourselves in a great position at the end of the race to win.”
Mother’s Day is Sunday. Talk about your favorite memory of your mom and how special your mom is to you.
“I think of all the sacrifices my parents made, I think the biggest was my mom enabling myself and my brothers to race. She raised a household of three boys and missed out on a lot of girly things, if you will, with three rough-and-tough boys racing. I appreciate all of her sacrifices. I love her to death. Mother’s Day has a whole new meaning for my situation, more directly, with being a father and what it means to (wife) Chani. I’m very excited about Mother’s Day.”
Do you and Evie have anything planned for Chani on Mother’s Day?
“We definitely have some good plans for Mom, and we are looking forward to Mother’s Day. I have always enjoyed Mother’s Day and so proud to have my mom at the track. So much fun to get her something for Mother’s Day and tell her how much I love her and care for her. It is just such a cool, different environment with being the parent now. It is really, really a cool day.”