Las Vegas Preseason Thunder, day 14

NASCAR PRESEASON THUNDER AT LAS VEGAS - DAY 14 * Hunting a title: Jimmie Johnson targeting 2006 championship run * Jamie McMurray fastest in morning session DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 31, 2006) -- Jimmie Johnson may have spent part of his ...

NASCAR PRESEASON THUNDER AT LAS VEGAS - DAY 14

* Hunting a title: Jimmie Johnson targeting 2006 championship run

* Jamie McMurray fastest in morning session

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 31, 2006) -- Jimmie Johnson may have spent part of his off-season tracking game on the African plains, but his 2006 regular-season safari could yield the biggest trophy -- a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title.

The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet finished fifth in last season's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, not what he envisioned after two consecutive seasons as the series runner-up. Winter time spent with his wife, Chandra, on a photographic safari proved an invigorating getaway -- and one which could prove the perfect metaphor for 2006.

"I didn't own a nice camera until that trip," Johnson said Tuesday at NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas. "So you can definitely see my photos develop as the days went by. The first three or four days weren't very good."

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas is the continuation of the annual preseason tests that began several weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway, and on Tuesday, Johnson -- one of five drivers who visited with media during the lunch break -- discussed his safari adventure, among other things.

"I didn't come back and feel like I solved the world's problems," Johnson said. "But I spent a lot of quality time with my wife and didn't think about racing."

The Johnsons were accompanied by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and his girlfriend, Ingrid Vandebosch, and part of their time involved tracking a lion pride -- also, quite a bit of anticipation.

"Of course Jeff and I wanted to see the lions feed and the girls were scared to death that would happen," Johnson said, adding that the group didn't witness a lion feast.

But a healthy hunger exists within his team. A harmless morning spin on Las Vegas Motor Speedway's frontstretch provided such punctuation for Johnson.

"Thankfully I didn't hit anything," he said. "There's something about spinning out the first time, 'All right, I had my first spin.' I feel very accomplished this morning."

Johnson's next career accomplishment is the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title. He and crew chief Chad Knaus are back for their fifth season, and NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas figures to provide a big boost -- for Johnson's and Gordon's teams, and those of their teammates, Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) and Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet).

Last season, Johnson was the sole Hendrick Motorsports participant in the Chase. He'd like company in 2006.

"Tonight is going to be a very important night for Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said of Tuesday evening. "Tonight is when all the crew chiefs and engineers will get together and pour through all the data we've collected."

Jamie McMurray leads Tuesday morning session ... Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal/IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford), posted the top two times in Tuesday's morning session -- first at 169.316 mph (31.893 seconds), followed by the second-fastest time of 168.924 mph (31.967).

Preseason testing continues ... NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas begins Monday, Jan. 30 and runs through Wednesday, Feb. 1. Teams may test on two of the three days. All sessions begin at 9 a.m., and end at 5 p.m. (PT), weather permitting, with a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

Drivers scheduled to test from Jan. 30-31 include Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford), the fourth-place finisher in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, who is preparing for his final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season.

Other drivers testing on those dates include Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), Chad Chaffin (No. 92 Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam Chevrolet), Jeff Green (No. 66 Best Buy Chevrolet), Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 04 Dodge), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), Travis Kvapil (No. 32 Tide/Downy Chevrolet), Kevin Lepage (No. 61 Ford), Jamie McMurray (No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools/ Sharpie Ford), Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford), Hermie Sadler (No. 00 Aaron's Rents Ford), Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford), Kenny Wallace (No. 78 Chevrolet), Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Chevrolet) and Scott Wimmer (No. 4 Aero Exhaust Chevrolet).

Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet), Brent Sherman (No. 49 Dodge), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), David Stremme (No. 40 Coors Light and Lone Star Steakhouse Saloon Dodge) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) also will test from Jan. 30-31.

Seven drivers who competed in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup will test from Jan. 31-Feb. 1. They include runner-up Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), 10th-place finisher Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford), third-place finisher Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), fifth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), seventh-place finisher Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), ninth-place finisher Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and sixth-place finisher Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge).

Joining them will be Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge), Todd Bodine (No. 03 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), Mike Garvey (No. 51 Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge), Terry Labonte (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet), Sterling Marlin (No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), Kyle Petty (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge), Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge) and Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet).

Three drivers -- all Joe Gibbs Racing teammates -- will test on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. They are current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Fed Ex Chevrolet) and J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet).

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for 2006.

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Track Layout: 1.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Monday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (PT) Lunch from noon until 1 p.m.

Who: Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Joe Nemechek, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, Scott Riggs, Elliott Sadler, Hermie Sadler, Ken Schrader, Brent Sherman, Reed Sorenson, Tony Stewart, David Stremme, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip, Scott Wimmer and J.J. Yeley.

-nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Hermie Sadler , Kasey Kahne , Brent Sherman , Scott Wimmer , Chad Chaffin , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Chad Knaus , Dave Blaney , Mike Garvey , Jim Beam , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing