Drivers Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman tweaked and tuned their NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars at Kentucky Speedway today in hopes of gaining an edge they can use to chip away at Matt Kenseth's leading points margin through the final eight races of the season.

Newman, who leads the series in wins with seven, has won three of the past six and five of the past 11 races. He said his team remains focused on winning a championship despite trailing Kenseth by 580 points.

"Unless we're mathematically out of it we're still going for a championship," Newman said. "He's (Kenseth) sitting pretty, but he can still have some bad luck. The key is consistency and having the total package on race day."

The 25-year-old driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge enters this week's race at Talladega fifth in the series standings with a total of 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.

Johnson, who flirted with a top-three finish during the final three weeks of 2002 before closing out the season fifth, enters Talladega third in series wins with three and third in the points standings. He trails Kenseth by 473 points, but is only 37 points behind the second-place Kevin Harvick.

While not officially out of championship contention, Johnson said his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team is gunning for a top-two championship finish.

"It's in Matt's hands," Johnson said. "They keep showing us week in and week out that they're not going to mess it up. In my eyes, I think we're racing for second. "

Johnson owns a total of eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes on the season. He credits part of his team's most recent two-race stretch that has included a win at New Hampshire and a top-10 at Dover to a growing chemistry with crew chief Chad Knaus.

"It's just getting better as time goes on," Johnson said. "The more experience we get under our belts and the more time the team has to grow together leads to smarter decisions, better decisions. We want to keep winning, and hopefully we can win another two or three this year."

Other drivers sharing the track with Johnson and Newman were Ricky Craven of PPI Motorsports, Tom Hubert with Bill Davis Racing and Damon Lusk with Ultra Motorsports. Craven, Hubert and Lusk also are scheduled to test on Thursday, Sept. 25.

~ Kentucky Speedway ~