Jimmie Johnson: "It would be insane" to win at Fontana

Auto Club Speedway in California is the track that launched Jimmie Johnson’s incredible run of success in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Jimmie Johnson: "It would be insane" to win at Fontana
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Race winner Jimmie Johnson does a burnout
Victory lane: race winner Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet celebrates
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally

Can it also be the track that returns him to Victory Lane in his final fulltime season?

On April 28, 2002, in just his 13th career start in the Cup Series, Johnson registered his first victory, leading the final 14 laps and holding off Kurt Busch to do so.

A NASCAR record-tying seven series championships and 83 career victories later, Johnson – a native of El Cajon, Calif. – rolls into Auto Club Speedway this weekend for his final start. He will retire from fulltime competition at season’s end.

The track has gone out of its way to make Johnson’s visit a special one, including inviting his wife, Chandra, and daughters Genevieve and Lydia to wave the green flag to start Sunday’s race.

In addition, Johnson will lead fellow competitors in a five-wide salute to the fans during the pace laps and iconic motocross racer and Johnson’s childhood friend, Ricky Johnson, will serve as the honorary pace car driver.

Read Also:

“This is certainly a different one for us and my family. I am very thankful that the track came to us with that suggestion to get my family up there in the stands. I think pre-race will be full of emotions,” Johnson said Friday.

“They will have a chance to come across the stage with me and be introduced with their responsibilities. Being a part of the five-wide salute at the front of the field, and then see those hands up there in that flag stand is going to be cool.”

But the most important thing Johnson could take away from his final competitive weekend at California would be a victory. Johnson, 44, remains immersed in a career-worst 97-race winless streak and ending it is his No. 1 priority right now.

Asked what it would mean to win this weekend, Johnson didn’t mince words, “It would be insane. Home track, first win, you could just go down the list of meaningful talking points that could come out of it.

“The way last weekend went with the speed that we had in our Hendrick cars and the way mine drove, I’m very optimistic about this weekend and it would just be incredible to pull that off if we could.”

Outside of Dover, Del., Auto Club Speedway is probably one of the best places Johnson could arrive primed for a victory.

He leads all drivers with six career wins at the track and has an average finish of 7.6 in 25 career starts on the 2-mile oval.

In Friday’s two practice sessions, Johnson was sixth and 21st-fastest. Qualifying is 2:35 p.m. ET Saturday.

Hendrick Motorsports, and Johnson in particular, have seemed to benefit from the new model Chevrolet Camaro introduced in the offseason. All four teams have been competitive in the season’s first two races.

“We ran in the top-10 and the top-five most of the day (at Las Vegas). And the car, honestly, responded well to adjustments through the weekend,” Johnson said. “So, with all the new things we have that are going on, it was really just a deep breath.

“It’s like, ‘All right, we’re in a way better place than we were leaving Vegas last year at this time.’ So, it’s just a relief and we know we still have a ton of work ahead, but we’re not panicked or overly stressed about what we have in front of us.

“We can just be calm and relaxed and get to work.”

shares
comments
Alex Bowman tops final Cup practice; Kyle Busch tags wall

Previous article

Alex Bowman tops final Cup practice; Kyle Busch tags wall

Next article

Despite a bad start, Daniel Suarez left Las Vegas 'very happy'

Despite a bad start, Daniel Suarez left Las Vegas 'very happy'
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Fontana
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Author Jim Utter
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020