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Johnson, team upbeat about setup for Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 26, 2009) – Jimmie Johnson is looking to take charge this Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as he pilots the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Impala SS for Hendrick Motorsports.

After spending a full year driving the Chevrolet Impala SS—previously dubbed the “Car of Tomorrow”—Johnson has more confidence in the team’s set-up for 1.5-mile racetracks, like this weekend’s tri-oval at Las Vegas.  Johnson believes that his team can improve upon last year’s 29th-place finish and bounce back with a strong performance.

“I feel really good about the Vegas, Kansas, Chicago-style tracks,” said Johnson, who has won three of the last four Cup events at the track.

In seven Sprint Cup Series starts at Las Vegas, Johnson has posted three wins, three top-five finishes, four top 10s and led a total of 210 laps. He also has completed 99.9 percent (1,870 of 1,872) of all laps he has attempted there.  The Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will air live on FOX this Sunday at 3:30 p.m., ET.

Las Vegas is the first 1.5-mile track that NASCAR visits this season, and Johnson thinks this weekend’s race will be a good gauge on the No. 48 team’s 1.5-mile program, given NASCAR’s current testing policy. Johnson said that most teams are relying on their past performances at each of the tracks to determine race car setups.

“I really think you have to go back to the conclusion of last season and look at the way everybody was running on certain types of tracks and start there,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how much we can all learn without testing.

“It’s going to be a great test to the engineers and the seven-post rigs and all that stuff that we use, but we’re always able to go to the track and validate it and see if that stuff has worked or not. So, in my mind, I look at who was strong at these tracks last year.”

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