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Johnson Ready for Chicagoland Return

  • Jul 11, 2003

JOLIET, Ill. (July 11, 2003) – In his rookie season last year, Team Lowe’s driver Jimmie Johnson returned to Chicagoland Speedway, site of his first NASCAR win, filled with excitement. In fact, he was so excited to get back on the track that on his very first lap in practice he wrecked coming off Turn 3 and was forced to use his backup car.

To add insult to injury, Johnson had only 15 minutes to practice in his new Lowe’s Chevy, and took a provisional for the race as a result.

But just when you thought Team Lowe’s was going to show its rookie stripes, the No. 48 crew fought back from its 37th-place starting position to capture a top-five finish and spark the team to a strong performance during the second half of the season.

“I think Chicago is going to be a great race for us,” said Johnson, referring to the upcoming Tropicana 400 on July 13. “Last year we finished in the top five after having to start in the back with our back-up car. Hopefully we won’t hit anything in practice or qualifying so we can start with our primary car and have a little track position behind us this year.”

Johnson, who ranks sixth in the Winston Cup championship standings, nabbed his first-ever NASCAR victory at Chicagoland—in the Busch Series in 2001. The track itself is relatively new, having hosted just two years of Winston Cup competition.

“What you find with the new race tracks is that they’ve done such a good job of building a smooth race track and the quality of the asphalt is so good, that the bottom lane is the fastest way around the track,” Johnson said. “If you move up at all into the second or third lane, you’re just making your distance longer and there’s no benefit to that.

“Hopefully the winters have been hard on the race track. And with all the racing that’s gone on there the last couple of years, hopefully we’ve taken away some of the grip from the bottom lane so that the second lane will start to have at least the same lap time if you move up a little bit.

“That’s the thing we fight with new race tracks,” he continued. “After they are four or five years old, I think you start to see the second groove coming into play. So I’m excited. The track is getting a little bit of age on it and hopefully we’ll have multiple grooves.”

Team Lowe’s Racing will use the same Monte Carlo that Johnson drove at Las Vegas and California this season.

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