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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Auto Racing: Without new deal, Jimmie Johnson committed to winning for Hendrick


Jimmie Johnson wants to kneel down and kiss the Indy bricks for a fifth time.

He wants a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

And he wants to do it all – for now, forever – with Hendrick Motorsports and trusted crew chief Chad Knaus calling the shots.

Johnson and Knaus have yet to sign contract extensions with the only organization they have called their professional home, though Johnson called a new deal nothing more than a formality.

Unfortunately for the rest of the field, there’s no sign that NASCAR’s most successful team is on the verge of a breakup.

“We are obviously not concerned,” Johnson said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We have been getting things buttoned up with Lowe’s, with Hendrick, with Chad and myself, all of that.”

Lowe’s is the primary sponsor on Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet and has long partnered with team owner Rick Hendrick and the driver who won five straight series championships from 2006-10 and a sixth in 2013. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt share the record with seven.

He long ago usurped Jeff Gordon as the most decorated champion on the Hendrick roster.

But Indy is still Gordon’s house and the five-time winner is trying to go back-to-back and win one of NASCAR’s marquee races Sunday in his final full season.

Drivers adjust to rules

A new rules package for Indianapolis Motor Speedway provided visibility issues for drivers. It was even harder to see after nearly five hours of practice if the new rules package will produce better racing.

NASCAR is trying to improve the on-track product, and is using four track-specific aerodynamic packages to see what could be a better fit for the heavy stock cars. The package used two weeks ago at Kentucky was well-received by the drivers, but NASCAR switched to a high-drag setup for Indianapolis, where passing has always been difficult.

There were mixed opinions after three long practice sessions, and many drivers said anytime they got too close to another car, the turbulence was so rough, they had to back off to avoid crashing.

Formula One

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton again showed his speed to post the fastest time in the second practice session of the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.

Daniel Ricciardo’s promising session for Red Bull ended with engine trouble, however.

In a largely encouraging afternoon for Red Bull, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat posted the second quickest time ahead of Ricciardo, who went off the track with smoke billowing from his car with about 20 minutes remaining, bringing out the red flag for the third time of the day.

It had to come out twice in the morning session, first when Mexican driver Sergio Perez emerged unscathed from a crash and when veteran Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen lost his Ferrari’s front wing.