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No rain tires on tap for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 10, 2009

Goodyear officials have a rain tire that can be used on road courses in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Goodyear officials have a rain tire that can be used on road courses in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Jeff Gordon remembers the NASCAR Sprint Cup practice on rain tires in 2000 at Watkins Glen.

“I went down into Turn 1 and my windshield wiper went off into the kitty litter down there,” Gordon said Friday.

With that memory, Jeff Gordon wasn’t begging NASCAR to put rain tires on Sprint Cup cars in order to get the Sunday road-course race run at Watkins Glen International. NASCAR postponed the Cup race to Monday, the second consecutive week the Cup event was postponed because of rain.

NASCAR had rain tires available for the Nationwide race Saturday at Watkins Glen – it ran part of the road-course race at Montreal last season in the rain – but has opted not to use them at the Sprint Cup level.

The race at Montreal eventually had to be stopped because of visibility.

“For the level of competition that we have in the Sprint Cup Series and as the stakes continue to rise from a competition standpoint, a sponsorship standpoint, a championship standpoint, we’d be best served to run the Sprint Cup Series on dry race tracks,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said Sunday after the rainout was announced.

“We feel like that would be better for competition, that would better for the level of racing that the fans are accustomed to seeing.”

During the Nationwide race a day prior to the Cup race, teams had one set of rain tires mounted because of the threat of rain.

“I think that in bad weather NASA sends up smaller space craft instead of the big space craft and it is pretty similar,” driver Ryan Newman said. “You don’t want to risk a lot. I don’t think it would be an ideal situation for all the fans. … I have never raced in the rain. It would be a disadvantage to me.

“I think it is still racing. As far as the fans, I don’t think it would be as good of a race in the rain as it would be if it is dry. That I think is the hesitation more so for Sunday than it is on Saturday.”

Gordon said he watched the race in Montreal and figured if a driver such as Carl Edwards had to clean off his windshield with a hand-held wiper he kept inside his car, that racing in the rain was definitely less than ideal.

“We have enough challenges trying to stay on the track when it’s dry and I can’t imagine what it would be like in a Cup race if it was wet,” Gordon said. “I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it rain up there in Montreal … That was highly entertaining, but I was very glad that I wasn’t inside the car.

“One of the biggest reasons, I think it would be fun to actually drive the cars in the rain if you get a consistent rain and you can feel the grip level, but as you saw, the windshield wipers don’t work, the de-fog doesn’t work.”

Another issue why the Nationwide Series uses rain tires is because with a rain date Monday at Watkins Glen was not cost-effective for the teams.

“There’s a little more flexibility to rescheduling a Sprint Cup Series race as opposed to a Nationwide race,” Tharp said.

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You Aren’t a Real NASCAR Fan Unless..

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 9, 2009

You see it thrown around a lot on the Internet. In any NASCAR discussion eventually one person will claim that they are a “real fan” and that clearly their opponent is not. What does that really mean?

Being a true NASCAR fan is not a function of how old you are, how long you have been a fan or who your favorite driver is. NASCAR has millions of fans spanning all ages, shapes, sizes and cultures. What is it that truly makes one person more of a “real NASCAR fan” than another?

Answer: 
Real NASCAR Fans:

•never cheer a wreck 
•help others to appreciate NASCAR
•understand that NASCAR existed long before their favorite driver was in it 
•never leave the race early (without a darn good reason) 
•learn about NASCAR history 
•appreciate a good race even if their favorite driver is not in it 
•are from all walks of life and all geographic areas 
•are friendly 
•are passionate 
•may or may not have ever been to a live race 
•never throw anything on the track

In short, are you an ambassador for the sport, willing to learn more about NASCARand trying to set a good example for us all? If so then you are a “real NASCAR fan.”

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Is Jimmie Johnson’s pole at The Glen enough to satisfy you?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 9, 2009

OK, so Jimmie Johnson doesn’t have a road-course victory on his resume yet – a fact which he was reminded of several times Friday at Watkins Glen.

But he does have a road-course pole to his credit now, after his fast lap on a pleasant New York afternoon edged out Kurt Busch for the top spot.

Maybe that will do something to quiet those who believe Johnson’s resume is incomplete without a road-course win. It’s a bit ridiculous, if you ask me.

People are still waiting for Johnson to win at a non-oval track (even more than a place like Bristol, for instance) because they view it as the truest test of driver ability. But while road-courses are definitely a great tribute to driver talent, so are three straight Cup championships.

Actually, I’d take the three titles over a road-course win – wouldn’t you?

Rest assured, Johnson said a road-course victory is now at the top of his list. And he’ll get there. (Which means all of you are now in trouble for opening your mouths about this. When Team 48 concentrates on something like this, it is in the bag it will eventually happen)

“It’s just taken me a long time – we only do it twice a year – to figure it out,” Johnson said.

In reality, Johnson doesn’t need a road-course victory to prove anything. Actually, he has nothing left to prove.

But for those looking for some greater proof of Johnson’s talent (again, silly given his accomplishments), how about Friday’s pole?

Think about it: There’s no other place where the driver has more to do with winning the pole. Superspeedway poles are almost 100 percent about the car and intermediate tracks are perhaps 75-25 car/driver.

Road-course poles are one lap, one shot at coming the closest to a perfect lap when everyone is trying their hardest.

The winner of that little contest on Friday was Johnson. Satisfied yet?

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Johnson’s Pocono finish may be telling

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

It’s days like Monday afternoon at Pocono that prove Jimmie Johnsoncan win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title.

Johnson was three laps down late in the race. He was 36th with 40 laps to go and 34th with 30 laps left. He had an engine problem the team couldn’t figure out.

And after all that, Johnson finished 13th in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, an astonishing comeback to make a respectable showing off a horrible situation.

That’s how you win championships.

“For us to salvage a 13th-place finish means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I think we are going in the right direction. It shows me what my team is capable of and what I’m capable of going into the Chase.”

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

Johnson ran first or second in the first 100 laps of the 200-lap event before his engine started to sputter. He didn’t know what was wrong.

“OK buddy, check your switches,” crew chief Chad Knaus said calmly over the radio.

No help. Johnson had to pit. The 48 Chevy team lifted the hood, looking for a loose spark plug wire. No luck.

Johnson went back out and tried to stay on the lead lap until he could pit under caution, but Kasey Kahne quickly put Johnson a lap down.

The crew still was searching for answers. Johnson came in again and they changed the carburetor. Didn’t work. Another caution flew and they changed some of the spark plugs.

Bingo.

“After that, it ran,” Johnson said. “I knew we were about out of stuff to try. We lost another lap because it’s a time-consuming process and we could only get to a few [plugs]. I was hoping the problem was in one of the few we were able to reach. Luckily, it was.”

Five cautions in the last 50 laps enabled Johnson to get back on the lead lap with the lucky dog rule, but he raced his way past a gaggle of cars at the end.

Johnson was 25th on the final restart with 13 laps to go. His finish enabled Johnson to remain second in the Cup standings, 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart and two points ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon.

Speaking of making the most out of a bad day, Stewart finished 10th after starting in the back in his backup car. He was 28th after 80 laps.

“We were just really loose at the beginning,” Stewart said. “It was going to take big steps to fix. We finally just made a huge change and we got it closer, but we never got it right. We made the best of a bad situation.”

A good lesson for everyone with championship hopes.

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Soldier to be honored at Watkins Glen

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Madonna will be honored as a “Hometown Hero” during the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen weekend at Watkins Glen International.

Madonna, of North Syracuse, was injured in an explosion two years ago while serving in Iraq. He now works with the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps soldiers recover from devastating injuries.

At the track, Madonna will tour the garage, hauler and pit areas, and he’ll meet the U.S. Army Racing Team of the Sprint Cup No. 39 Chevy Impala driven by Ryan Newman.

Madonna will watch the race from the grandstand, and he will talk to fans who visit the Army’s Strength in Action Zone, an interactive area featuring simulators, fitness tests and other challenges that allow race fans to experience what a soldier’s life is like.

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Max Papis top Raybestos Rookie in Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen Qualifying

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

2009 Raybestos Rookie Contender

2009 Raybestos Rookie Contender

Where the Raybestos Rookies qualified at Watkins Glen:

Papis 16th
Speed 26th
Logano 35th

RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE CONTENDER QUALIFYING QUOTES FOR THE HELUVA GOOD! SOUR CREAM DIPS AT THE GLEN NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES RACE AT WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL.

MAX PAPIS IN THE No. 13 GEICO TOYOTA WAS THE TOP RAYBESTOS ROOKIE IN QUALIFYING TODAY AT WATKINS GLEN.

Papis will start 16th in Sunday’s race, his best start in 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

Papis was the Raybestos Rookie of the Race at Infineon (Sonoma, Calif.) Raceway earlier this season (race No. 16) where he scored a career-best 12th-place finish.

All three Raybestos Rookies entered at Watkins Glen qualified for the race.

PAPIS: DOES QUALIFYING GET ANY EASIER ON FRIDAY AFTERNOONS? “No, it doesn’t get any easier let me tell you. We did a great job all day today with the GEICO crew. They gave me a great car. You know being out of the top-35 is definitely something that requires all the mental effort. You can’t really go out and push it super-hard because there is too much to risk. I pushed myself. I said go, go hard, go hard, doesn’t matter. Even if it comes back in a ball of fire it’s better like that than not making the show. It’s still not easy to push yourself when you know that a slip of a half a second can cost the race and the effort of the weekend. So far I’m really pleased and we’ve got a fast car in the GEICO Toyota. Let me tell something: I really love all the crowd out here. I want to say thanks to all the people. Thanks for all the support because you guys mean the world for me and you are riding with me. Thanks a lot guys. Love you.”

ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE ON A ROAD COURSE VERSUS AN OVAL? “You know here we got to test the car and we knew what we h ad in our hands. So it was like alright, we know that if we do a good job we can go fast. It’s not easy when you are going to new tracks like ovals where we’ve never been, never run the car once, and you’ve only got six or eight laps to prove how you can do it. It’s difficult but it’s relatively easier.”

WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD FOR YOU HERE ON SUNDAY? “Win the race. I really feel that, you know, I’m going to be out there grinding my teeth and pushing as hard as I can and I think that’s definitely the way you need to race these races. If you are conservative you go backward.”

SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 RED BULL TOYOTA:

ARE YOU PLEASED WIT THAT LAP? “I think we said before going in there we knew we didn’t have good pace. We’ve been struggling with the braking area since we got here. I’d say for us it was a good lap. It was really clean, did everything I wanted it do so I’m really happy with that. We got it solidly in the show and you know we have all day tomorrow to make it better for the race.”

WHAT DOES YOUR CAR NEED TO DO TO PASS CARS HERE AND FOR YOU TO HAVE A GOOD DAY ON SUNDAY? “Stop [laughs]. If it stops good and if it comes off the corner good you’re going to have a good day.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 THE HOME DEPOT TOYOTA:

THIS WAS A CHALLENGING DAY FOR YOU. “I don’t know, I just screwed up by three tenths my qualifying lap so I deserve to start in the back.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO QUALIFY HERE? YOU HAVE LIMITED EXPERIENCE. “It’s tough. It’s definitely one place that I feel like the Nationwide car hurt me for qualifying at least where I just overdrove every corner after getting out of the other car. You don’t realize how much more speed you’re carrying over here than over there and drove it off the racetrack. At least we know we’re better than where we’re starting but I have my work cut out for me.”

MY WORD

GO JOEY GO! WIN the Raybestos Rookie Contender Award! YOU ARE THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, SHOW THEM!

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Denny Hamlin puzzled that David Reutimann is still upset over Pocono crash

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Denny Hamlin, one of my top ten drivers. Now an Ex replaced by Marco Ambrose

Denny Hamlin, one of my top ten drivers. Now an Ex replaced by Marco Ambrose

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin says he was surprised to learn that David Reutimann was still upset Wednesday over contact between the two drivers in Monday’s rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin says he talked with Reutimann Monday night about the contact that sent Reutimann’s Michael Watrip Racing Toyota spinning into the path of Marcos Ambrose and ruining a potential top-10 finish for both drivers.

Reutimann, who entered Pocono 13th in the standings but left in 16th, suffered a severe blow to his hopes of making NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup while Hamlin went on to win the race and improve his own Chase chances.

Hamlin was somewhat caught off guard by Reutimann’s comments during an appearance on Wednesday that he was still, “mad as heck, to be honest with you, about that whole situation.”

“We actually talked that night,” Hamlin, speaking on Friday at Watkins Glen International, said in reference to the night of the race. “I talked to him and he seemed fine. He didn’t say anything, that he was angry or anything. I’m sure he was, but he seemed fine that night. I’ve been in the situation before where you’re battling for Chase spots. It’s not always about one race. There’s a lot of races that lead up into it.”

While Hamlin’s Chase prospects are fairly safe – he has a 251-point buffer on 13th-place Kyle Busch – Reutimann could be in trouble with just five races left before the championship-determining field is set.

He trails 12th-place Greg Biffle by 121 points for the final championship-eligible spot and would need to leapfrog four drivers to move into that position.

Hamlin believes that he can’t be held solely responsible if Reutimann misses the Chase, however.

“Yeah, you have one bad race, but it’s a culmination of races that are before that that kind of put you in that spot,” Hamlin said. “We definitely didn’t help his Chase chances for sure, but it happens. It really does. And I’ve been in the same situation.

“I’m definitely apologetic about it, for sure. It’s something that I didn’t mean to do, but in the same sense you can’t put the blame all on me that he doesn’t make the Chase.”

MY WORD

Hey Denny, how about we do this. Swap your points with David’s. Then see if you are “fine” with being taken out and dropping a couple of positions?  They texted, which is a far cry from actually sitting down and hashing it out..

Hamlin better keep out of the way for the 47 (Marcos Ambrose) this Sunday or he WILL be moved.

Dirty Denny !! Someone hit it right on the head when they gave him that nickname ! It’s why I dropped you (Denny) from my top ten drivers and replaced you with Marcos. I lost all respect for you that day and at that race.

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JJ’s Kryptonite?

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Come to think of it, Jimmie Johnson does share some physical similarities with the man in cape.

Thinking on it, Johnson does share some physical similarities with the man in cape.

Three-time Sprint Cup champion. Three-time Brickyard winner. Daytona 500 winner. There’s not a lot missing from Jimmie Johnson’s résumé. Except a road course win.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — … but he’s never won on a road course.

That’s the empty end phrase on Jimmie Johnson‘s Cup résumé, after the three straight championships, the most wins (43) of anyone since he’s been at this level, the Daytona 500 win, the top five in points every season, etc. …

His credentials are so hefty that since Mark Martin started calling him Superman a couple of weeks ago after Johnson won his third Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in four years, the nickname is showing signs of sticking.

And, “he doesn’t have to win a road course to continue to be Superman in my book,” Martin said Friday, just before practice began for Sunday’s Heluva Good at the Glen road race.

Well, Martin’s got his book, and I’ve got mine.

In every Superman movie I’ve seen, he’s been able to turn right as well as left in flight.

Not that Johnson can’t. He led 17 laps here last year before falling back with a flat tire. He’s on the pole for Sunday with a qualifying speed of 123.633 mph on Friday. His peers say he’s quite a road racer, for whom the breaks just haven’t fallen right.

But until and unless they do … well … I’ll gladly acknowledge that Johnson is the top NASCAR driver of his time, but I won’t join the Superman cult.

Not that road racing is anywhere near the point of the NASCAR exercise. But it is one small element to be mastered if a driver is to be deemed fully a maestro.

Think about it: The others who arguably qualify as NASCAR’s most talented — Jeff GordonTony Stewart, even Kyle Busch — all have won multiple road races.

Stewart doesn’t think it matters much. “I think three championships are enough to overcome not having won on a road course,” he said.

But, Stewart acknowledged, “There’s a lot of pride amongst the drivers in being able to win at every discipline, and win at every racetrack. So I’m sure that’s something that’s high on his priority list.”

It is. In fact, Johnson even said Friday that he’d rather win here than the half-mile oval at Bristol, Tenn., that has notoriously given him fits.

And no one is more baffled than Johnson at his lack of serpentine success.

“I don’t feel like I need it to complete my résumé,” he said Friday. But, “It’s been shocking to me.” He meant on a recurring basis, since he arrived at Cup level in 2002, considering his background in off-road racing, which usually is excellent preparation for NASCAR road racing — witness Robby Gordon‘s success.

“It’s been kind of that weird thing for me, and I don’t understand it,” Johnson said. “Certainly in other vehicles — in a Grand Am [prototype] car, I’ve been extremely fast in wet conditions.

“So I don’t know what it is about this Cup car that I’ve had troubles with.”

But, “I think we’re getting closer and closer, and I’m hopeful that it’s this weekend. At Sonoma [in June] we overcame a lot and finished fourth, and left extremely optimistic for this race.

“Last year we were really fast here, had a cut tire and had to come back from pitting under green [to finish seventh],” he said.

Said Boris Said, the ESPN analyst and part-time NASCAR driver who is guru and teacher of road racing to most Cup drivers, “I don’t think it’s if he’s going to win a road race, it’s just when, and how many.”

Martin, the preeminent road racer in NASCAR in the early ’90s, agreed that for Johnson, “it’s one of those matter-of-time deals.”

“I usually am a slow learner, but once I pick up something I own it,” Johnson said, “and I don’t let go of it … when I figure out how to really get around this place I’m sure I’ll be on it and do well with it.”

Tasmanian Marcos Ambrose and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, NASCAR’s two road racers since childhood, figure Johnson already has the technique.

“I was shocked when I learnt that Jimmie hasn’t won on a road course,” Ambrose said. “He’s as good as anybody. I follow him and he races me hard, and if I’m looking at the list on any week at a road course of who’s a threat to win, Jimmie’s on my list. So I’m surprised he hasn’t managed to close the deal. But he’s very talented.”

“He seems to be doing always a good job on road courses,” Montoya said. “Last year at Sonoma he was really fast.”

“I know he’s worked really hard at it,” said Johnson teammate Jeff Gordon, NASCAR’s all-time best road racer with nine wins. “And that’s what makes a good road course driver, is somebody who’s challenged by it and enjoys that challenge and goes after it. And he certainly has.”

Johnson’s lack of success might lie with a weak point in otherwise mighty Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon suggested.

“Other than maybe the first couple of years he was at Hendrick, I’m not so sure we’ve had the best package out there on the road courses the last three or four years,” Gordon said. “When I was winning all of our road races, I felt like we did have the best package, and I did my part.

“So I think if we step up our package a little bit — and hopefully that can happen this weekend — I think that Jimmie can definitely challenge for a win.”

And then …

… he’ll have won on a road course.

Résumé complete for Superman.

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Lowe’s out as sponsor of Charlotte track in 2010

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Lowes Motor SpeedwayLowe’s will not renew its naming rights of Lowe’s Motor Speedway when its contract expires after this season.

Lowe’s cited changing marketing strategies Thursday as the reason it won’t return in 2010. The home improvement chain signed as sponsor of then-Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 in the first major naming rights deal of a NASCAR track.

The Sports Business Journal reported last week that Lowe’s would not come back in 2010, but Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith insisted as late as Wednesday that the talks were continuing on a new deal.

Lowe’s will continue its primary sponsorship of three-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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Road-course victory still tops Johnson’s to-do list

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

Driver 0-for-15 in his career surprising others in garage

48 COT @ Watkins Gleen 2009

When Jimmie Johnson first arrived in NASCAR eight years ago, he figured road courses would be one of the smoother parts of his transition. Growing up in Southern California, he had excelled at making both left and right turns, winning a trophy case full of championships in motorcycles and off-road vehicles long before he gravitated to stock cars. That background, he figured, would make him a natural at places like Watkins Glen International.

And yet, here is Johnson, with three championships and 43 race wins on NASCAR’s premier series, and still searching for his first victory on a road course. He’s zero-for-eight at Infineon Raceway, and zero-for-seven at Watkins Glen entering Sunday’s Cup event on the 2.45-mile layout. It’s a notable omission for a driver who’s seemed to have won everything else during his tenure in NASCAR thus far.

“I was shocked when I learned that Jimmie hasn’t won on a road course, because he’s as good as anybody,” said former road-course ace Marcos Ambrose, who now races the full Cup schedule for JTG Daugherty Racing. “I’ve followed him, and he races me hard, and if I’m looking at the list on any week at a road course race of who’s expected to win, Jimmie’s on my list. So I’m surprised that he hasn’t managed to close the deal.”

Even Johnson — who’s been competitive in two starts in the 24 Hours of Daytona sports-car event, and won a road race at the Race of Champions in 2002 — struggles to comprehend it.

“It’s been kind of a weird thing for me, and I don’t understand it,” he said. “Certainly, I hopped in other vehicles. I hop in a Grand Am car and am on pace with my teammates that are extremely fast and won a championship. So I don’t know what it is about the Cup car that I’ve had some troubles with. But I am getting closer, and I think more seat time is helpful. I usually am a slow learner, but once I get something, I own it and I don’t let go of it. I feel like I’m chipping away at it.”

He’s come close — Johnson finished third at Watkins Glen two years ago, and might have won here last season had he not suffered a cut tire and been forced to make a pit stop that placed him at the rear of the field. His fourth-place result at Infineon earlier this year was a career-best at the Northern California track. His peers see an eventual trip to Victory Lane as an inevitability.

“He’s the guy I just called Superman,” said Mark Martin, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, referring to comments he made at Pocono Raceway last week. “I don’t think he needs a road-course win to continue to be Superman in my book. He’s fast. He’s fast on a road course. But that’s OK, we’ll push him anyway. I think he’s very competitive, and it’s one of those matter-of-time deals. Everything has to line up just right.”

“I’m sure, in his mind, he’s won at everything, but he hasn’t won a road race. I think that’s probably on his bucket list, and he wants to tick it off,” added road-course ace Boris Said. “His teammate [Jeff Gordon] is one of the best in the business, so I’m sure he gets a lot of advice from him. And just by the fact of how he ran at Sonoma, I think he’s getting better and better. I don’t think it’s if he’s going to win a road race, it’s just when and how many.”

Gordon is indeed the most successful road-course racer at NASCAR’s premier level, with a record nine career victories on the serpentine tracks. Yet even Gordon hasn’t won at Watkins Glen in seven long years, and he concedes that Hendrick’s road-course package hasn’t exactly been the best during that span — perhaps one reason that Johnson has come up short on road courses to this point.

“I’m sure in his mind, he’d like to add [a road-course victory] to his resume. I know he’s worked really hard at it. That’s what makes a good road-course driver, someone who’s challenged by it, and enjoys that challenge and goes after it. He certainly has,” Gordon said. “Other than maybe the first couple of years he was at Hendrick, I’m not so sure we’ve had the best package out there on the road courses the last three or four years. And when I won, when we were winning all our road-course races, I felt like we had the best road course package, and I did my part. I think if we step up our package a little bit, and hopefully that will happen this weekend, I think Jimmie can definitely challenge for a win.”

No one seems to think that the lack of a road-course victory somehow renders Johnson’s illustrious career incomplete. But Johnson clearly places an emphasis on getting that first road-course victory, to the point where it’s on his short list of things to accomplish at the beginning of every season.

“Truthfully, it’s been on my list far before winning a Cup championship,” he said. “I was just able to get the championship stuff done before getting a road-course win. I had no idea that this type of success would come and I would be experiencing stuff at the championship level. So, there were a lot of other steps and goals on my sheet before a championship, but I was very fortunate to get those first. Winning championships is what the season is based on and what the ultimate goal is, but when I look at the little battles through the course of the year, a road course is at the top of that list right now.”

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