Talladega II: Jimmie Johnson preview

Sweet Home Alabama Team Lowe's hoping the fourth time is the charm at Talladega TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 23, 2003) - It is down to eight races left in the Winston Cup season and the difference between second and fourth place is a mere 54 points.

Sweet Home Alabama
Team Lowe's hoping the fourth time is the charm at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 23, 2003) - It is down to eight races left in the Winston Cup season and the difference between second and fourth place is a mere 54 points. It just so happens many consider the second, third and fourth-place drivers (Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) the top restrictor-place drivers. While Johnson has taken two out of the last three poles at Talladega, Junior has won four out of his last seven Winston Cup races on the 2.66-mile track.

While it looks like Junior has the clear advantage, Johnson and Harvick have quickly developed their restrictor-place skills. Johnson led the most laps at Talladega's spring race, while Harvick started the race in the second position and went on to finish second to Junior.

If you throw into the mix Johnson's teammate, Jeff Gordon, and Junior's teammate, Michael Waltrip, you probably have the group of drivers that many fans feel are the best on the restrictor-place tracks.

Quotes from Jimmie Johnson

(HOW DO YOU COMPARE RETURNING TO A TRACK WHERE YOU DID WELL, WITH A TRACK THAT YOU DIDN'T DO SO WELL?) "Most of the time, you carry a lot of confidence coming back. You know your set-up is going to be close. But, we've also come back and been disappointed, like at Pocono where we really struggled. And then at Dover, we were the dominant car at both races last year, but didn't have it this year. Technology is changing. Every race team is constantly moving forward. Sometimes you might get lulled into a situation where you think you're going to be fine and you expect to be good, but you go there and it doesn't pan out. In some cases it works for you and in others it doesn't. I do like the feeling going into a track where I know I'm going to run well. It definitely makes the week leading into it a lot better."

(HOW CAN CONFIDENCE HELP IN SOME PLACES?) "From my standpoint, I'd go out there and put out a good solid lap and I'm comfortable doing it. At some tracks, you might try too hard or you know that it's one of your worst tracks so you're really focusing on it. When you wake up in the morning or the night before, you're driving laps in your head. If it doesn't work out and you're not where you want to be, you might overreact and it might make that day long. When you come into a track and you know that you're going to be good, you make a couple of laps and you're in the middle of the board, you know you can get better. It's just a different approach. It builds a lot of patience into the team's atmosphere."

(ARE YOU CONTENT TO FOLLOW THE DEI DRIVERS TO THE FRONT THIS WEEK, OR HELP THEM, OR DOES THAT JUST VARY THROUGHOUT THE RACE?) "You know that the No. 8 (Dale Jr.) and the No. 15 (Michael Waltrip) are going to end up in the front. The problem is passing the lead car. That's the hardest position to make. Third to second is easy. Second to first is the hardest one. So I've been very content in following the No. 8 and the No. 15, but I find myself sitting in second without an opportunity to pass. So if you're deep in the pack and those guys are in front of you, you know you're going to get to the front. But as you start getting closer and you have an opportunity, you need to take it because you might just be building a coffin for yourself in settling for second."

(GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, ARE YOU SHOCKED THAT MATT KENSETH HAS BEEN ABLE TO OPEN UP THE SPACE HE HAS?) "No, it exists. Matt is having a typical championship year. Last year, it was such a tight points battle, but there were so many DNF's among the top few guys. Tony (Stewart) came from deep in the pack to win the whole thing. So, if you look at Bobby Labonte's championship year or Jeff Gordon's championship years, it's the consistency that pays off. Matt has been so consistent, with no DNF's, and he has not completed only two or three laps. That's doing a great job and those guys have been doing it all year."

(ON THE LOWE'S / RED CROSS SUPPORT FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS) "We raised $69,200 -- $48 for every lap. We don't know any of the figures as to what the Lowe's stores are doing. But people can either go to a Lowe's store and donate right there at the cash register, or they can go to Lowes.com and help raise more money for the American Red Cross. Throughout the weekend, the disaster relief fund has been at zero. With the hurricane, it's been more of a silent disaster more than anything. It's like people don't feel it's necessary to contribute as much or that there hasn't been as much devastation. But truly, there has been. The silent disasters are the most dangerous ones because the awareness isn't there. With the disaster fund at zero, we need to raise some money. With the race car, we raised over $69,000 last weekend and hopefully the fans can donate some more and help our friends in need."

Quotes from Chad Knaus

(HOW DO YOU FEEL THE NASCAR RULE CHANGES WILL AFFECT YOU THIS WEEKEND?) "I think that you'll see a little higher speeds and a little more tire wear this weekend. Strategy will play more of a role in this race then it has in the past. Really, you are still going to have to rely on in the right place at the right time to have success on these tracks. I don't believe in luck. I feel you make your own luck, but this is a place that will test my theory, that's for sure."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus