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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway this weekend for the first of two road-course races this season. The 1.99-mile track is notoriously difficult with elevation changes and, of course, right and left turns. A victory at the track located in California’s Wine Country had been on Johnson’s bucket list for years. In 2010 he finally hoisted a wine goblet full of the area’s finest libation in victory lane.
In addition to being a previous Sonoma winner, Johnson enters the race weekend as the series points leader and is tied with Matt Kenseth with three victories each this season, a key factor in determining how drivers are seeded for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup which starts in September. While that is all certainly good news for Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing, safe to say it’s been a couple of frustrating weeks on the racetrack, with several victories slipping away in the closing laps.
Last week in Michigan, Johnson had an opportunity to get a win at one of the five tracks on the circuit where he has yet to claim a victory. With two laps to go, he was running down the leader when he had a tire issue and finished 28th. Two weeks prior, Johnson had a shot at what would have been a record eighth win at Dover when he was penalized on a restart late in the race and finished 17th.
But Johnson and team know that there’s no use whining about what should have, could have, or would have been when there’s a goblet of wine waiting for this weekend’s winner in wine country.
Jimmie Johnson's Thoughts for the Weekend...
Talk about going to Sonoma.
“I’m excited to get out there. It’s a beautiful time of year to be there. I’ve understood the track and have had some good runs there over the past few years and I look forward to going back out and hopefully getting another road course win.”
What do you think about the new qualifying procedure for road courses?
“I think it’s definitely going to make it more fun to watch, especially on TV. It’s also going to make it a little easier on the drivers. It will give us more of an opportunity to correct a mistake we may make during a lap. In road-course racing, there’s such a flow and a rhythm that, when you sit for two or three hours before you make your lap and you get one shot at every corner, it’s tough. With this new format, you’ll make three or four laps. You can go out and take your time on the first lap and then go out and get on it the second or third time and bust it out. It makes it a little easier to get a good lap, but it will definitely add something for the fans.”