Jimmie Johnson’s season is off to a competitive start with a win in the season-opening Daytona 500 and a runner-up finish in last weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. While those numbers don’t guarantee a jackpot ending to this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Johnson’s odds look good at the 1.5-mile oval.
Johnson will drive his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet in the eponymously titled race. He has won four of the 11 races he has run at the speedway – with victories in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 – and has five top-five finishes. Of those finishes, last March’s battle with Tony Stewart in the closing laps resulted in a hard fought runner-up finish as Stewart beat Johnson on the final restart to claim the win.
With the highest driver rating at Las Vegas, the odds seem to be in Johnson’s favor. And with an impressive start to the 2013 season, it’s apparent five-time Sprint Cup champion Johnson has the tools he needs to improve upon last year’s result.
Johnson’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway Quick Stats:
•Johnson has four wins (March 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010) at Las Vegas but has yet to earn a pole position.
•Johnson has earned five top-five finishes and six top-10s in 11 starts.
•His average start is 14.4 and average finish is 9.8. He has completed 2,955 of 2,958 laps (99.99 percent) and led 355.
•He has finished every race in which he’s competed at the 1.5-mile oval.
•Sprint Cup’s best driver rating (110.9 average of a possible 150 points).
•Sprint Cup’s best in fastest laps run with 283.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
Talk about the battle with Tony (Stewart) at the end of last year’s Las Vegas race.
“We ran well all day. It was a competitive race, and it was a fun to race that hard with Tony at the end for a win. He was killing everyone all day on the restarts, and he got me at the end. It was a good day for the Kobalt Tools Chevy. I hope we are in the same position again this weekend.”
What did you think of the sixth-generation (Gen-6) car at Phoenix, and do you have any ideas on how it could be improved?
“I think we have a great product. It’s going to continue to get better. One of the things we’ve all recognized over the years is, the faster we go, the narrower track gets, and the harder it is to pass. Speeds will be up, especially when we get to the mile-and-a-halves, so with all that being said, I think we need to leave the cars alone for a good 10, 20 years. Let the teams be. Right here on this blacktop, there’s a lot of work that can be done to help create better racing and keep the fans in the grandstands.”
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 on 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.
•Johnson was named by Forbes magazine as its Most Influential Athlete in 2011 and 2012.
•In 2009, Johnson became the first racecar driver to be named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in its 78-year history.
•Voted Driver of the Year four times in his career (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), joining Gordon as the only other four-time winner of the prestigious award.
•Johnson has won an ESPY for Best Driver four times – 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
•For his work throughout the year in social media, Johnson ranked as the top driver in NASCAR for strongest and most engaging use of social media in a study by Tuckahoe Strategies.
•Won four #Sports Awards for use of social media in sports, including Best Overall Brand on Social Media, Most Engaging Athlete on Twitter, Most Engaging Athlete on Facebook and Best Instagram Photo (for his 2012 photo of Bristol Motor Speedway).
•With his wife, Chandra, launched the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006. The foundation is dedicated to helping children, families and communities in need. To date, more than $5.6 million has been contributed to various organizations.