Johnson, Earnhardt, Jr., Waltrip And Others Wrap Up Busy Winston Cup Test Period At Kentucky Speedway
NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Robby Gordon, Michael Waltrip, Mike Skinner, Steve Park and Greg Biffle capped a two week NASCAR Winston Cup test period at Kentucky Speedway that saw 16 series drivers, including five of the top 10 points leaders, prepare their machines for the season-ending eight-race run.
Johnson enters the week just 30 points behind leader Mark Martin and is coming off his third victory of the season at Dover just four days ago. He said the information he gained at Kentucky both this week and last will help him prepare for this Sunday's 400-mile event at Kansas.
"We're learning a lot. It's hard to take what you learn at one track and apply it to the next, but we really feel like, especially for Kansas, that Kentucky will help us get an idea of the spring package we need and the geometry that we need in the front of the car," Johnson said. "We were here a couple weeks ago and crashed one and wanted to come back on our way to Kansas and make sure we had everything figured out and dialed in being in the situation we're in with the points."
Including his three wins, the 27-year-old driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet has driven to six top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 2002. He began the campaign by winning the pole at Daytona, but said he didn't expect to be second in series points this late in his rookie season.
"There's no way I figured we'd be here, but we're here and in form to maybe do something that's never been done before," Johnson said. "I'm very pleased with everything that's gone on. The team is working great and we'll just see what happens."
Also in Johnson's corner this week is inaugural Kansas race champion and four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon, who owns a portion of Johnson's team in conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson said while Gordon's track knowledge will be important at Kansas, changes in technology from last season to this season will add some new aspects to both driver's race preparation.
"(Jeff's knowledge is) going to be huge, but the technology has changed so much from that race last year to now that we're going back with totally different bodies on the cars, different springs and shock packages," Johnson said. "It's kind of like starting all over again."
Other NASCAR Winston Cup drivers who saw action at the track over the past two weeks have included current series points leader Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte and Dave Blaney. Biffle, the current NASCAR Busch Series points leader, represented NASCAR's junior circuit along with Larry Foyt circuit during the test period.
~ Kentucky Speedway ~