“There’s no place like home.” Judy Garland delivered the ubiquitous line in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Jimmie Johnson can relate as he heads to what he considers “home” on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., just up I-15 from his hometown of El Cajon.
Not only is the track home-like geographically, but a quick glance at the five-time champion’s statistics at the 2-mile oval and it’s easy to understand if he feels like it’s his house. He has five wins in 18 starts and has finished outside the top-10 only four of those times and outside the top-five only six. He has finished every lap in those 18 races and holds the series’ best driver rating among several other key statistical categories.
Johnson often cites his first win at the track in March 2002, also his first in the series, as one of the highlights of his career. “It was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” he said. “I felt like I might be able to keep my job after that.”
He kept his job and has continued to move into his new home-away-from-home over the years. Coming into Sunday’s Auto Club 400, Johnson will look to climb back into the points lead after a tire issue last Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway knocked him from atop the standings for the first time since winning the season-opening Daytona 500. If his most recent results at Fontana hold true, Johnson has a shot. He hasn’t finished outside the top-10 since September 2006, when he was 11th.
So while the mythical Dorothy’s visit to the Land of Oz and her subsequent trip home to Kansas (whose university’s basketball team, incidentally, begins its quest for a return trip to the NCAA’s national championship game this weekend) may have been a dream, there’s no dreaming that Johnson has what it takes to make this another successful homecoming.
Johnson’s Auto Club Speedway Quick Stats:
•Five wins (March 2010, October 2009, August 2008, September 2007, March 2002) and one pole (August 2008) in 18 starts.
•12 top-five finishes (66.7 percent) and 14 top-10s (77.8 percent) in 18 starts.
•The last time Johnson finished outside the top-10 was an 11th- place finish in September 2006.
•Average start is 9.1 and average finish is 5.4.
•Has finished on the lead lap every race, completing 4,284 of 4,284 laps, and leading 851.
•Sprint Cup’s best driver rating (122.4 average of a possible 150 points).
•Sprint Cup’s second-best in fastest laps run (456).
•Sprint Cup’s best in most laps in the top-15 with 3,142 (95.7 percent).
•Sprint Cup’s best average running position (5.4).
•Sprint Cup’s best green-flag speed (172.113 mph).
Driver, Team and Sponsor Notes
•Jimmie Johnson will drive the No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation (JJF) Chevrolet SS at Auto Club Speedway.
This is the seventh time Johnson has run the special scheme at his home track in the Sprint Cup Series (September 2007, August 2008, October 2009 and 2010, June 2011 and March 2012). He also ran the scheme in the Nationwide Series in September 2006.
He has won three times with this paint scheme (2007-2009). His worst finish was 10th in last year’s Auto Club 400.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
What do you think we are going to see at Auto Club Speedway this weekend?
“I think it’s going to be a fun race. We have a lot of racetrack to race on. We’re all getting smarter about the cars. I’m excited that Lowe’s is allowing me to have my foundation’s colors on the racecar. That combination has been awfully successful for us over the years.”
CHAD KNAUS, Crew Chief of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
Are looking forward to going to Auto Club Speedway?
“I’m looking forward to going to Fontana with the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet SS. It is a really good racetrack. It’s easy to say that about a lot of venues, but Fontana is a track where the drivers can really go and explore different lanes. The crew chiefs and teams can explore different ways to make the racecars go fast because you can work with horsepower. You can work with aerodynamics. You can work with mechanical grip. If you are fortunate enough to get all three of them right, you run really, really fast. It’s honestly a really good racetrack and a lot of fun.”
Jimmie Johnson NASCAR Sprint Cup Career Statistics:
•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.