Talladega II: Jimmie Johnson preview

Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the fourth of the ten 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup" races. Johnson is first among the 12 "Chase" drivers leading teammate Jeff Gordon by six ...

Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the fourth of the ten 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup" races. Johnson is first among the 12 "Chase" drivers leading teammate Jeff Gordon by six points. Johnson is aiming for his fourth pole in five races. He owns two poles and a victory at the 2.66-mile track. Johnson finished third at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. He has now posted a top-five finish at every track during his career. Sunday marks the first race for the Chevrolet Impala SS "Car of Tomorrow" on a restrictor plate track.

DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON:

TALLADEGA: "I feel concerned and worried. But that's no different than any other plate race. And with all the new things coming along, it's still going to be plate race and we still have the same issues to deal with. I think it's a little bit more difficult now. There are a lot of unknowns that we'll have to sort out. But it's still the feeling of a restrictor plate race in my stomach."

BECAUSE OF THE UNKNOWNS, ARE THE PRACTICE SESSIONS MORE IMPORTANT? "Yeah, I think it's going to be more of a learning session. Like when we have the current car, set-ups are kind of decided on. We know where we need to be and what to do and we're really working on small things, where it's broader right now. So I think as time goes on, we'll start perfecting the subtleties on the car and looking for certain things, but right now we're all kind of back on our heels wondering where we need to work and what direction we need to go in, how is the car going to draft and what's going to go on. So it's a little bit more back on your heels right now."

IS THERE ANY WAY TO MENTALLY PREPARE FOR TALLADEGA? "No, you really can't. It almost makes it one of the easier races we go to because there isn't much you can do. When you go to other tracks where you can work on the cars and adjust the handling, you worry or think about set-ups and springs and shocks. There's a lot going on in my own mind as a driver, about technique and how I'm driving the track and what line I'm using. At Talladega, we're all the same. We've got those plates on and you're running in a big pack and you can't really protect a line or a move or whatever is going to go on track because you're just in a big glob out there racing. So it's really one of the easier tracks to get prepared for. It doesn't mean that we're not going to be stressing out going there and living through it, but mentally, from a driver's standpoint, it's one of the easier tracks.

ON THE INTENSITY OF THIS YEAR'S CHASE COMPARED TO PAST YEARS: "For myself, I'm in such a better position this year, three races in. The intensity is there but it's more optimism than it was frustration last year. For myself and I think for the competitors, everybody is dealing with something right now. We had a lot of crashed cars that were in the Chase last week and I think there are guys in that spot right now that are frustrated and it seems like are performing, but a lot of people are frustrated with their on-track performance. It's been more about luck and circumstances during races. So, it's extremely intense and it's only going to get more intense."

-credit: hm

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson