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The song “Nothing Else Matters” from rock band Metallica sums up the attitude that the No. 48 Lowe’s team needs to adopt the next two race weekends. After locking up a spot in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, nothing else matters for Johnson and crew except winning.
Johnson still leads the driver standings by 18 points over second-place Clint Bowyer heading into Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. However, in two weeks, the standings will be reset according to driver wins. Johnson owned the top seed over Matt Kenseth prior to Saturday night’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Both had four wins with Johnson holding the tiebreaker with a next-best finish of second to Kenseth’s fifth. But Kenseth went on to score his fifth win of the season while Johnson got tangled in someone else’s mess and finished 36th.
Now, the only thing that will get Johnson the top seed is surpassing Kenseth in the win department. He has two more weekends to complete the task. With Hedrick Motorsports horsepower under the hood of the No. 48 Lowe’s “Dover White” Chevrolet SS, Johnson is considered a top contender at the 1.54-mile Atlanta oval notoriously tough on engines. He has three wins and more than half of his 21 starts there have ended in top-five runs.
And while another top-five run would certainly be welcome after Saturday night at Bristol coupled with his 40th-place finish after an engine issue at Michigan International Speedway the previous weekend, nothing else matters for Johnson right now but a win.
Talk about how the Chevy SS will race at Atlanta.
“I think the extra downforce is going to be nice. It’s going to help the cars drive a little better. Maybe promote better tire life. The cars will drive a little easier. That track is so old and abrasive and awesome that any assistance you can have to help drive it a little straighter will save the tires.”
Everybody says they love that track because it is so old and abrasive. Is it one of the tracks you like as well?
“I do. It is a busy lap and a busy 500 miles there. You leave there spent, physically and emotionally, but it’s awesome. The track has so much character to it. You can drive anywhere on the racetrack. That is what we like as drivers – to have options – and there are plenty of options there.”