Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson preview

Team Lowe's is hoping first trip to Phoenix is a pleasant one. Rookie team hoping to close the season out strong following two sub par performances. AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 6, 2002) - Team Lowe's Racing is hoping that its current pattern in the ...

Team Lowe's is hoping first trip to Phoenix is a pleasant one.
Rookie team hoping to close the season out strong following two sub par performances.

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 6, 2002) - Team Lowe's Racing is hoping that its current pattern in the NASCAR Winston Cup season is not like the winter weather myth, that if it comes in like a lion it will come out like a lamb. Team Lowe's was one of the hottest, if not the hottest, team during the first have of the season. But the second half, for the most part, has been filled with misfortune and heartbreak. While mathematically it has not been eliminated from the championship race, Team Lowe's sits in third place overall in the standings; 219 points out of the lead with just two races left. The team is just hoping to get the monkey off its back and regain the form that helped them tie the rookie record for wins in one season with three.

Jimmie Johnson on racing at Phoenix International Raceway
"It's a track that I've had success on in the Busch Series. I don't think my finishes show it. We broke a motor one time and blew a tire another time. But it's close to home for me. I've got some friends and family coming down. I love being out on the west coast. I can get some Mexican food again. It should be a good track for me."

Johnson on Team Lowe's changes of winning the championship
"We can't control our own destiny by any means. So that, I believe, means we don't really have a shot at it. Tony (Stewart) has a free week on us right now. On top of that, we would still have to have a real good day and he would have to not have such a good day for us to catch him in points. I just don't see that happening with the strength of that team. But crazy things happen. I don't think the chances are very good."

Johnson's emotions on the last two races
"It's just disappointing. At Atlanta, we just had a bad day and the car just didn't have the speed in it. Luckily, we didn't hit anything. I was excited we didn't crash. But I was depressed that we lost so many points. Last weekend (at Rockingham) we started deep in the pack but we drove up through there. I was really excited for the race. I felt like we had a shot at a great day with Ryan (Newman) and Tony (Stewart) having troubles - we could have made up points in (both) the rookie battle and the championship. I was really disappointed when we had the problems we had. I was just disappointed. I guess that's the best way to put it."

On Mark Martin being penalized 25 points
"There isn't anything that I can do to control what goes in that race car the way the sport is these days. Typically, a week before the race the car is either in the truck loaded up and heading somewhere or it's one of 20 cars sitting on the floor in there (shop). Exactly what's right or wrong is impossible for the driver to know. I know everyone out there is doing every thing that they can. They try to work every gray area. There's kind of a little competition between the crew chiefs and NASCAR about what's in that gray area they can get away with. Everyone is trying. I'm sure there is something worth 25 points (penalty) on every race car that's out there."

Chad Knaus on racing at Phoenix International Raceway
"Heading into Phoenix we're fortunate that the No. 24 team went down there last week and tested. Jeff Gordon had a real good test out there with the DuPont Chevrolet. We got some good information for the Lowe's car and hopefully we can go out there and run well.

"Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff have very similar driving styles, so the Lowe's Monte Carlo will unload almost identically to the Dupont Chevy. This will be Jimmie's first trip to Phoenix in a Winston Cup race car, so there will be a little bit of a learning curve for him before the race.

"Jimmie and I were talking last week and it sounds like he had some solid runs going there during his Busch career before mechanical problems caused him to tail off before the finish. Unfortunately for me, I haven't had much success there in my Winston Cup career as a crew chief. With the No. 92 race car last season we sat on the pole, but just couldn't bring home a strong finish.

"Phoenix is probably most similar to New Hampshire. It's a flat one-mile racetrack. Jimmie adapted well to New Hampshire and I felt like we had a shot at winning there earlier this season. Jimmie has had an opportunity to race at Phoenix twice, so hopefully we'll unload strong and be able to take off from there."

Jimmie Johnson Fast Facts

* Ranks third in the Winston Cup Series championship standings, 219 points behind the leader

* Is the first Raybestos Rookie contender in history to lead the Winston Cup points race

* Has won three NASCAR Winston Cup races this season (California, Dover - Spring and Fall), tying the rookie record for wins in a season

* Is tied for the fastest modern day driver to reach two wins

* Has three wins, six top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 34 races

* Has four Bud Pole positions this season, tied for the most in NASCAR Winston Cup (, Daytona, Talladega, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Richmond)

* Is 20 points back in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Competition (339-319)

* Has been the highest finishing rookie 16 times this season

* The 20 top-10 finishes is second most in the Winston Cup Series (Las Vegas - 6th, Atlanta - 3rd, Darlington - 6th, Bristol - 7th, Texas - 6th, Talladega - 7th, California - 1st, Lowe's Motor Speedway (Spring) - 7th, Dover (Spring) - 1st, Pocono - 3rd, Daytona (Pepsi 400) - 8th, Chicagoland - 4th, Indianapolis - 9th, Michigan - 7th, Darlington - 9th and New Hampshire - 9th, Dover (Fall) - 1st, Kansas - 10th, Lowe's Motor Speedway (Fall) - 6th and Martinsville (Fall) - 6th)

* Only the third rookie in history to win the Daytona 500 pole

* Only the second rookie in history to win a pole at Talladega Superspeedway

* Holds the NWC qualifying record at Lowe's Motor Speedway

* Has led 12 Winston Cup Series races this season (Las Vegas, Talladega, California, Lowe's Motor Speedway (Spring and Fall), Dover (Spring and Fall), Michigan, Chicago, Pocono, Darlington (Fall) and Richmond (Fall)

Jimmie Johnson at Phoenix International Raceway

* Johnson has never competed in a Winston Cup race at PIR

* In the Busch Series, 5th was his average qualifying position and 35th was his average finishing position

* His Busch record at Phoenix International Raceway is: * Outback Steakhouse 200 - 2001(Spring): started 6th and finished 21st (blown tire) * Outback Steakhouse 200 - 2000 (Spring): started 5th and finished 40th (engine)

No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Fast Facts

* Team Lowe's Racing will bring car 4859

* This is the same Lowe's Chevy that Johnson drove at the first Atlanta race (started 15th and finished 3rd) and Texas (started 13th and finished 6th).


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus , Mark Martin