It could be said Irish eyes have been smiling on Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing as the No. 48 team has compiled three top-10 finishes in the first three races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. While a little Irish luck never hurt anyone, hard work and determination are the real reasons the No. 48 team has turned in consistent performances that have led to Johnson currently leading the driver’s point standings.
However, a notoriously challenging track lies ahead for Johnson as the series travels to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and the tight confines of its .533-mile high-banked concrete oval. The driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS has a March 2010 win at the track, which has since undergone a new configuration, but he has struggled on the track in the past.
Bristol ranks in the bottom four tracks for Johnson in NASCAR’s driver rating system. But lately, the five-time Sprint Cup champion seems to have found his groove, notching five consecutive top-10 finishes starting with his 2010 win.
With one short track in the books with the new sixth-generation car introduced at the start of the season – Phoenix International Raceway, where Johnson finished third – Bristol will provide a different kind of challenge. And while there are sure to be many race fans clad in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day during Sunday’s Food City 500, Johnson hopes all of those “Irish” eyes will be smiling down on him in victory lane.
Johnson’s Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway Quick Stats: • One win (March 2010) in 22 starts. • One pole (August 2010). • Seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 22 starts. • Seven top-10s in the last eight races. • Average start is 15.9 and average finish is 14. • Has completed 10,764 of 11,013 laps (97.7 percent) and has led 789 laps. • One DNF (“did not finish” – August 2005). • Sprint Cup’s sixth-best driver rating (93.8 average of a possible 150 points).
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
What are your thoughts on this weekend’s race at Bristol?
“I think the mechanical aspects will help the cars at Bristol. The last time there, we were very curious about the grinding and what would happen and what wouldn’t. The track just changed in some ways and we will just go back and get in a rhythm and see what happens. For the longest time, we were not competitive at that track and now we’re in the mix and I’m really happy about that.”
CHAD KNAUS, Crew Chief of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
How would you size up your expectations for Sunday’s Food City 500?
“I’m looking forward to going to Bristol. We’ve had a lot of solid performances there, lately. The new track configuration is going to lend itself to some superior racing and the tire Goodyear is bringing is impeccable. I’m really looking forward to getting the Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS on track at Bristol.”
Jimmie Johnson NASCAR Sprint Cup Career Statistics: Career Wins:
•Johnson has 61 wins in his Sprint Cup career, his most recent coming in the 55th Daytona 500 Feb. 24 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
•El Cajon, Calif., native Johnson is eighth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, trailing Dale Earnhardt, who is seventh with 76 wins.
•He is second in total wins among active drivers behind Jeff Gordon (87).
•Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50-win mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories sooner – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
•Of the 23 tracks on which the series competes, Johnson has won Sprint Cup races at all but five – Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
•Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
•Johnson earned his fourth Brickyard 400 victory July 29, 2012, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, tying him with Jeff Gordon as the winningest driver in the famed race. Johnson and Gordon also are tied for second on the all-time Indianapolis Motor Speedway win list with four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher is the track’s all-time leader with five United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis victories.
•Johnson has collected 29 poles in his Sprint Cup career.
•He earned at least one pole per year in the first 10 years of his full-time career.
•He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
•Johnson’s most recent pole position was Nov. 2, 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
•Johnson has finished in the top-10 in the Sprint Cup point standings each year since his first full season in 2002 and in the top-five in 10 of those 11 years.
•Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
•In 401 Sprint Cup starts, Johnson has posted 167 top-five finishes and 249 top-10s.
•He has a top-five finish at every track on the Sprint Cup circuit.
•Johnson has led a total of 13,873 laps (of 114,912 possible) in his Sprint Cup career, covering more than 153,433.2 miles.
•He has finished on the lead lap 310 times.