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Johnson Will Be A Factor in KS

All is right in the Kansas City sports world. The Royals and Sporting KC have winning records, the Chiefs have a new coach, a new quarterback and the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and Jimmie Johnson is atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings heading into Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.

And while Johnson may not be the local favorite for everyone, odds are the crowd at the 1.5-mile oval will see the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS up front at some point this weekend. Johnson owns the series’ best driver rating (119.5 average of a possible 150 points). In 13 starts, he has only two finishes outside the top-10 (April 2004 and 2006) and has led laps in every race but four (April 2001, 2004, 2010, 2011).

Among active drivers, Johnson is the leader on tracks 1 to 2 miles in length. He owns 92 top-five and 138 top-10 finishes in 197 races. His two wins (October 2008 and 2011) at Kansas have come at opportune times in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. One of the most memorable was Johnson’s win in October 2008, when he led 124 of 267 laps, holding off a hard-charging Carl Edwards on the final lap to earn his 38th career win. He would move into a 10-point lead in the championship standings on his way to a then-record-tying, third consecutive Sprint Cup title.

This weekend’s event at the recently repaved Kansas track may not be predictable, much like no one can predict how the Royals and Sporting KC will end the season, or whether the Chiefs will shore up their offensive or defensive line with their No. 1 pick. But one thing is for sure – Johnson will be a factor at Kansas. This is what he had to say:

Talk about racing at Kansas.

“I think tracks with older surfaces have been good for us. It fits my background and driving style and I think Chad’s (Knaus, crew chief) style of setting up a racecar. That is why we had so much success there, and then, they resurfaced the racetrack, so it’s been different.  I did have an issue there. I got turned around and tore the car up in the fall, during the Chase. But, even with a wrecked racecar, we had such a fast racecar, we came back and finished really well. I enjoy the track. It just flows for me. It fits well. I think the transitions into the corner – I do well at tracks that have abrupt transitions, especially into (turn) one. There’s a pretty abrupt introduction to the banking, and that seems to suit me well.”

What makes Kansas different from other 1.5-mile tracks?

“I know they all look the same, but Kansas has its own flow, for sure. Maybe it is more like a Chicagoland (Speedway) feel the way the track drives. Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is different than any of them we run on. The banking feels more – the asphalt acts differently with the racecars. Texas is an old surface but the entry and exit of the corners is very narrow. You have to turn a lot sharper, especially on corner exit, than you do at the other tracks, which is kind of odd because it looks very, very similar. There are differences between them all, but I would put Kansas and Chicago in the same group.”

Race Statistics

  • Two wins (October 2008 and April 2011) in 13 starts.
  • Three poles (April 2003, 2007 and 2008).
  • Five top-five finishes (38.5 percent) and 11 top-10s (84.6 percent) in 13 starts.
  • Average start is 10.6 and average finish is 8.0.
  • One DNF (Did Not Finish) – April 2004.
  • Sprint Cup’s best driver rating (119.5 average of a possible 150 points).
TAGS: Race News

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Started: 16th
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Saturday, September 6th
7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
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