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Jimmie Johnson’s season is off to a competitive start with a win in the season-opening Daytona 500 and a runner-up finish in last weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. While those numbers don’t guarantee a jackpot ending to this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Johnson’s odds look good at the 1.5-mile oval.
Johnson will drive his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet in the eponymously titled race. He has won four of the 11 races he has run at the speedway – with victories in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 – and has five top-five finishes. Of those finishes, last March’s battle with Tony Stewart in the closing laps resulted in a hard fought runner-up finish as Stewart beat Johnson on the final restart to claim the win.
With the highest driver rating at Las Vegas, the odds seem to be in Johnson’s favor. And with an impressive start to the 2013 season, it’s apparent five-time Sprint Cup champion Johnson has the tools he needs to improve upon last year’s result. Here's what he had to say on Phoenix and about heading to Vegas:
Talk about the battle with Tony (Stewart) at the end of last year’s Las Vegas race.
“We ran well all day. It was a competitive race, and it was a fun to race that hard with Tony at the end for a win. He was killing everyone all day on the restarts, and he got me at the end. It was a good day for the Kobalt Tools Chevy. I hope we are in the same position again this weekend.”
What did you think of the sixth-generation (Gen-6) car at Phoenix, and do you have any ideas on how it could be improved?
“I think we have a great product. It’s going to continue to get better. One of the things we’ve all recognized over the years is, the faster we go, the narrower track gets, and the harder it is to pass. Speeds will be up, especially when we get to the mile-and-a-halves, so with all that being said, I think we need to leave the cars alone for a good 10, 20 years. Let the teams be. Right here on this blacktop, there’s a lot of work that can be done to help create better racing and keep the fans in the grandstands.”