Johnson shifting focus at Pocono

Jimmie Johnson is getting used to putting in dominant performances. In less than four years, the pilot of the ...

Jimmie Johnson is getting used to putting in dominant performances.

In less than four years, the pilot of the #48 Lowe's Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports has become one of the NEXTEL Cup circuit's most dependable finishers. Johnson has two wins this season and has held the points lead since a second place finish at Atlanta 12 weeks ago.

Johnson was at his best last year at Pocono where he swept both races on the 2.5 mile track. He led more than 60 per cent of the laps in both races and used the wins to catapult into first place in the point standings heading into the Chase for the Championship.

Johnson appreciates the challenges of Pocono's unique triangular shape and is looking forward to attempting to follow Bobby Allison and Tim Richmond as the only drivers to win three straight Cup races at Pocono.

"I like it - it's always been a lot of fun," said Johnson, who finished third in his first race at Pocono in 2002. "It's a very demanding track because of the three different corners and the shifting that's usually been required there."

After claiming an unprecedented third straight win at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600 two weeks ago, Johnson will attempt to repeat the feat with his third straight Pocono win this week in the Pocono 500 on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET on FOX).

Johnson, like many of his competitors, is anxious to see how the new gear ratio rules that were implemented by NASCAR at the start of the season will affect the racing at Pocono. The new requirements will likely eliminate the need for teams to shift into overdrive on the track's two extended straightaways.

"I'm not sure what to expect without shifting this time," Johnson admits. "What made it so interesting and fun for me was the shifting and the demands on the braking and getting your downshift done right at the right time. So I don't know really what to expect. It's going to be a much different race for us this year at Pocono."

The drivers will also have to adjust to their first trip to Pocono with the smaller spoilers that were introduced for the 2005 season. Johnson predicts that the changes will slow the cars down, especially going into Turn 1 where cars often get bottled up trying to slow down after the long front stretch.

"I expect the times to probably be a lot slower since we're not able to optimize the power band of the engine," said Johnson, who is bringing the car that he won with at Las Vegas in March. "At Pocono it's very tough to get stopped in Turn 1 with the speeds we carry and I would expect that the smaller spoiler is going to be a little tougher on the brakes as well. So it's going to be a different race track -- probably one of the tracks we will have the most difficulty adjusting to with this new rules package this year."

Johnson expects that fans will hear a lot about the gear changes this weekend, but as usually happens with any changes, the teams that adjust quickly will be the most competitive.

"I think drivers who search out a new line and keep their cool and not get frustrated (will benefit)," Johnson said. "It's going to be aggravating not to be able to pass as easily and having the cars be so low in the power band coming off the corners. It's going to be frustrating so once again, I think the tempers once again will be high."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Bobby Allison , Tim Richmond
Teams Hendrick Motorsports