Phoenix II: Jimmie Johnson preview

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. This race marks the ninth of ten 2006 "Chase for the Championship" races. Johnson leads the points race,...

This weekend Lowe's Monte Carlo driver Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race. This race marks the ninth of ten 2006 "Chase for the Championship" races. Johnson leads the points race, 17 points ahead of Matt Kenseth. Johnson owns three second-place finishes and a victory in the last four races. In the last four races he has climbed from eighth to first and gained 173 points on the leader. Only Phoenix and Homestead remain on the 2006 schedule.


COMPARING BRICKYARD, DAYTONA AND OTHER VICTORIES TO A CHAMPIONSHIP: "I've never won the championship, but I would trade all my victories for a championship. In my life, everything I've done has been all about being the champion. That's been my goal."

PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY: "In the race, Turns 3 and 4 at times have second lanes. Turns 1 and 2 definitely have outside lanes so you can work on someone and try passing him. I would love another lane or two at that race track. If there was progressive banking in 3 and 4 it would really help that. But I still think for a mile race track it puts on a great race. It's more competitive than what we have at Loudon and I'm excited to go out there. I think we'll perform well. Every race track has it's own area that you've got to focus on so I still end up giving 100 percent if it's Darlington or Martinsville or Talladega or Phoenix - they're all different disciplines but you've really got to focus hard on the right things."

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE PHOENIX TRACK? "It's always been a good track for me. Our short track program and mile program have been getting stronger and stronger, so I carry a lot of confidence going in. And it's close to home. So I get excited for going back."

HOMESTEAD: "Well, we had the performance last year at Homestead and we were running strong in the race and then had a tire explode. So I think we've improved on our Homestead program when we were at the test. We left the test really, really competitive. Last year we left the test maybe tenths off the pace and scrambling when we went home. So it's nice to go home this time and just fine-tune and try to bring a little better product down. So I feel like we're going to be very competitive."

WITH RICK HENDRICK'S SUPPORT, DO YOU FEEL CALMER THIS YEAR? "I think so. We've been through the ups and downs of the seasons with the disappointment of not winning the championship and all the different trying things that really try relationships in our sport. We've stuck by each other's sides and found a way through it. Believe me, there were times when it was tough to work through it, but Rick is so good at that and he is a great people person. That's one of his biggest assets. Through the discussions he has had with myself and Chad, we were really able to focus on the right things and take a lot of pressure we're putting on ourselves off of us and have a great season so far. Rick is great you know, if you look at what he's done with Kyle Busch and bringing Jeff Gordon in and getting him his start and all the different characters he's had at HMS along the way; he's made winners out of all of them. That's just because of his skills to work with people."

Race Notes
Phoenix International Raceway

* Johnson has completed all 1,875 laps in his six starts at Phoenix. He has an average starting position of 12.8 and an average finish of 8.7 -- the best of the "Chase" drivers. Johnson has led 85 laps in two of his six Phoenix races.


* Johnson is one of three drivers to participate in all three "Chase" battles. He finished second in the 2004 "Chase" and fifth last year. This will be Johnson's fifth consecutive season finishing in the top ten in points.

* Johnson owns seven "Chase" victories, the most of any driver, and has led 883 laps but suffered five finishes outside the top 30 in his 28 career "Chase" races.

* Johnson has led 456 laps in the "Chase" in 2006.

* Johnson is the only driver to post seven top-ten starts in the eight "Chase" races in 2006.

* He is the only "Chase" driver with four top-five finishes in 2006.

* Johnson has led in six of the eight "Chase" races -- the most of any driver.

* Johnson has earned 40 lap-leader bonus points -- the most of any driver in the "Chase."

Phoenix April Race

* Johnson started tenth and ran at the front of the field throughout the early going of the race. He moved to second on lap 132 of the 312-lap race. On lap 165 he pitted for tires and fuel but ran out of gas on pit lane. The Lowe's team lost valuable time as they worked to restart the car. By lap 184 he was back to fourth. He appeared ready to challenge leader Greg Biffle and even raced ahead of eventual winner Kevin Harvick. But in the closing laps Johnson faded and finished seventh.

-credit: hm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kyle Busch