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Jimmie Johnson's Chase Diary: New Hampshire

By Jimmie Johnson

After 26 races it’s finally time for the “Chase for the Championship” and it all begins Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

To tell you we are excited is an understatement. We have been waiting for this time since the green flag dropped at Daytona. Sure, we knew we would have to race hard just to get in this season’s “Chase” and I was telling people we were never a lock to make it, but as we got down to the final races we realized the Lowe’s Monte Carlo was going to be in the show. That’s a luxury I think myself and Matt Kenseth enjoyed in the last few weeks.

Now the wait is over and it is show time. My strategy going into the Chase is pretty simple. Just run hard. Do the best we can and avoid any mistakes.

When NASCAR started the “Chase” in 2004 the conventional wisdom was the team that avoided a DNF would win it all. After the first two years I think it is safe to say that some feel you can probably endure one bad outing and still raise the trophy at Homestead.

I am not so sure that’s going to be the case this season with all of the strong drivers and teams in the “Chase.” This is the toughest “Chase” field ever. Kasey Kahne barely got in the “Chase” Saturday night and he’s probably one of the favorite’s to win it all. That tells you about the competition level of our sport. The driver with the most wins squeaks in to the “Chase.”

Our focus right now is on Loudon. That’s been a great track for us in the past. I have never finished outside the top 15 there. In fact we average about an eighth-place starting spot and finishing spot. Obviously, we are hoping for better than eighth this weekend, but getting off to a good start is going to be important. In a 10-race season, which is what the “Chase” really is, every race is important.

Going to Bob Bahre’s track in New Hampshire used to mean eating as much lobster as you could and enjoying the cool weather. With the “Chase” format, both lobster and weather are the least of our concerns. We hope Sunday’s run at NHIS is the first of a 10-step process to bring the championship back to Hendrick Motorsports and give Lowe’s its first title as a Nextel Cup sponsor.

Stay tuned. This is going to be a lot of fun.