Johnson Chasing Elusive Kentucky Speedway Victory
SPARTA, Ky. - For Jimmie Johnson, the Quaker State 400 was one that got away.
The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion led 182 laps in last year's race at Kentucky Speedway but finished ninth after a mishap on a restart late in the race.
Johnson was shuffled back on the restart and then spun in Turns 1 and 2. After the race, he was upset because he felt eventual race winner Matt Kenseth had broken pace car speed on the restart. Kenseth took the lead from Johnson by gambling on a fuel-only pit stop 24 laps from the finish.
"There were a lot of cat and mouse games going on through last year," Johnson said. "That stuff has changed quite a bit now."
NASCAR has since changed the rule prohibiting the second-place car from beating the leader to the start-finish line. The second-place car still can't re-start before the leader in the restart zone, but can beat the lead car to the start-finish line.
"I'm happy with the rule changes and certainly still today feel the scenario and the games played there is what led to our issue down there in Turns 1 and 2," Johnson said.
Kentucky Speedway is one of four tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule where Johnson has not won a race in his career.
It would surprise no one if the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet visited victory lane Saturday.
Johnson has heated up in a hurry. After going winless in the first 11 races, he's won three of the past five.
At Kentucky, he owns the highest driver rating (125.9) and has the highest percentage of laps run in the top 15 (97.8) and an average finish of 6.0 in the three Quaker State 400s.
"We've been close," Johnson said. "It's just on that last run; varying mistakes have kept us from going to victory lane. We've had a car capable of winning; I think two of them, at least. I'm not sure about the third. So it's just executing in that final run."
- Kentucky Speedway -