CONCORD, N.C. – While the offseason was a little more restful for driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, the duo didn’t let the downtime go to waste. Instead, they focused their efforts on preparing for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
“Not winning last year has been a good thing for the race team,” said Johnson, who was the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion from 2006-2010. “It’s really tough to strip things down and critically evaluate yourself, your team, the guys around you, when you have great success. We had a great run, and things were amazing, but having lost this last championship I think we’ve all looked at ourselves differently. There’s been a lot of great conversation and bonding that’s taken place. There has been a lot of growth.”
The No. 48 team will line up for the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and Johnson is anxious to tackle the restrictor-plate track, where NASCAR anticipates a return to pack racing. Previously, the Cup teams employed a tandem system for navigating the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In fact, Johnson used that approach with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win last season at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway -- the only other restrictor-plate track on the Cup schedule. But with NASCAR’s new rule changes in mind, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is ready to alter his approach at Daytona. In 20 Cup starts at Daytona, Johnson has won the 2006 Daytona 500 and earned six top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He won the Shootout in 2005 after leading 16 laps.
“When you pack race, in most instances, if not all, it’s important to race the whole time,” Johnson said. “You’re going to have to race for the win from the first lap. Unlike what we have now, where you know you can make up so much time in a short period of laps. You’ll be much more engaged throughout the race.”
The Shootout will be televised Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.