Jimmie Johnson hasn’t been to Victory Lane in 10 races, his longest drought in two years.
NASCAR’s four-time defending champion has finished outside the top-10 in five of the last seven races and dropped to seventh in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
And now he’s at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., one of just five tracks where he’s never won a Cup race. It’s not that being in wine country poses a problem. Johnson’s just not that good at road course racing.
“Everybody knows how much I have focused on it and how badly I want to win on a road course, especially here,” said Johnson, a Californian. “It’s time.”
Johnson has progressively gotten better at Infineon, where he’s cracked the top five just twice and has averaged a 17th-place finish in eight career starts. He was a career-best fourth last year, but didn’t carry that improvement into Watkins Glen, the only other road course in the series, where he finished 12th last August.
But after qualifying second for today’s race – he briefly held the pole until he was bumped by defending winner Kasey Kahne – Johnson believes he’s got a chance at winning on a road course.
“I feel really good about it,” said Johnson, who has run two Grand-Am events this year for more practice. “We’ve been testing and doing everything I can to be a better road course driver and to get our cars better. So we’ll see what happens.”
Edwards tops Nationwide field
Carl Edwards swooped past Jacques Villeneuve on a restart with nine laps to go, then ran away from the field to win the NASCAR Nationwide series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Villeneuve made a wild charge to the lead with 12 laps to go. But another caution bunched up the field, allowing Edwards to make his decisive move.
Ron Fellows finished second in a Chevrolet, 4.302 seconds behind Edwards’ Ford. Brendan Gaughan finished third in a Toyota. Villeneuve had mechanical problems in the closing laps, costing him a potential second-place finish.
Patrick kicks off busy month
Danica Patrick spent last weekend checking off one of the most important things on any maid of honor’s to-do list.
The bachelorette party.
One of Patrick’s best friends is getting married in September, so Patrick used the IRL’s off week between Texas and Iowa to celebrate. While that might seem a tad early to round up the bridesmaids for a bash, the auto racing superstar had a valid excuse.
“I don’t have a weekend off until then,” Patrick said. “That shows how busy I am.”
Patrick’s ambitious IRL/NASCAR Nationwide summer slate kicks off on Sunday with the IRL’s Iowa 250. Then it’s off to the Nationwide race in New Hampshire on June 26, the open-wheel road course event at Watkins Glen on July 4 and the Nationwide race in Chicago on July 9.
The next month will mark the first time Patrick is juggling open-wheel and stock car racing. She made her much-hyped debut in the Nationwide series before the IndyCar season started, but she put aside stock car racing to focus on the IRL in March.
Power grabs pole position
Will Power won the pole for the Iowa 250 in Newton, grabbing the top spot for the fourth time this season and first on an oval track.
Power gives Team Penske a record seventh straight IndyCar pole position. He ran an average lap of 181.337 mph on the Iowa Speedway’s .875-mile oval, beating out Scott Dixon by a fraction of a second. Dixon joined Power on the front row. Danica Patrick starts ninth.
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