Winston: Jimmie Johnson preview

Johnson hoping Wheeler's predication a good sign CONCORD, N.C. (May 13, 2002) - Team Lowe's Racing returns this weekend to Lowe's Motor Speedway, the site of what many feel was its most dominating two weeks of the season last year. Team Lowe's...

Johnson hoping Wheeler's predication a good sign

CONCORD, N.C. (May 13, 2002) - Team Lowe's Racing returns this weekend to Lowe's Motor Speedway, the site of what many feel was its most dominating two weeks of the season last year. Team Lowe's and its driver Jimmie Johnson came into last season's The Winston and Coca-Cola 600 with high expectations of driving in front of the hometown crowd filled with Lowe's employees. Johnson did little to disappoint the fans. In The Winston, Johnson lead the most laps and was able to capture the first two segments of the all-star event before finishing fifth after the fans inverted the field for the third and final segment.

The second week, Team Lowe's took the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 by setting a new track qualifying record (29.155 seconds, 186.464 mph). Johnson would go on to lead the most laps at the event, and if it wasn't for a late race miscue in the pits, many feel Team Lowe's would have gone on to win the race.

So, what does Team Lowe's plan to do different this season? It plans to bring home the hardware.

Jimmie Johnson on Humpy Wheeler's prediction of him winning The Winston

"I know he has a good track record for picking the winner, so hopefully it will bring Team Lowe's a little luck this weekend. Last year we had great success in the first two segments of The Winston, but with the fans electing to invert the field for the final run, we just ran out of laps before we could get back up to the front. Building off last year, coupled with our good test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway a few weeks ago, we are looking forward to big things over the next two weeks."

Johnson on the two weeks at Lowe's Motor Speedway

"With our all-star event, there is obviously a lot of money at stake. It's just a fun event without as much pressure, but it's still a race. The guys are working just as hard as they would for a normal weekend. It's a very prestigious event with some fun involved. The Coca-Cola 600 is the most grueling race we have. We've got a good solid two weeks at home for the families to build up for it. For us, being at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Lowe's car definitely adds some pressure. Hopefully we'll be able to win at our home track."

Johnson comparing Lowe's Motor Speedway to Daytona

"It's different. At Daytona, at the beginning of the year, you're wondering what people have and who is going to be strong. On the speedway races, you can always hold back - especially for qualifying. Nobody truly knows what the pole speeds are going to be and who it's going to be from until qualifying starts. There's such a build-up before qualifying - you've got a week of wondering who is going to win the pole. It's just a different feel. At Lowe's Motor Speedway these two weeks, nobody can hold back. So it's a little different - at least from our standpoint as a team."

Johnson on the surprise of the rookies dominating last season's The Winston

"I thought it was pretty cool. I was surprised with Ryan. He made it in on the last transfer spot on each event and then was able to win the whole thing - the important part. We dominated the first two segments and then didn't get back to the lead for the last one. Looking back, it was surprising for the rookies to come into the all-star event and take all the cash."

Johnson on using The Winston as a performance gauge

"The segments in The Winston are long enough that handling and tire wear really comes into play. The players in The Winston will probably be the players in the 600. Granted, it gives everybody time to work on their stuff. If you're not good at The Winston, you go home and improve your program for the 600. I think it's a good gauge and practice session for everyone for the 600."

Johnson on planning with crew chief Chad Knaus for this year's The Winston

"The second segment - with the fans having the choice of the inversion - you know they're going to invert 10 spots, the whole field. I think I made it to third or fourth last year and Dale Jr. made it to second. We both started in the last row. If either one of us had been a row or two from that, it would have been fine. Looking back, winning that second segment was probably a bad move. But it's really hard to tell yourself not to win and to let off the gas. I hate that part. I'd hope it would change somehow to where you didn't have to sandbag the second event to have a good starting spot for the third one."

-hm/lowes-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus