Jimmie Johnson not focused on expectations but on getting better

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Is Jimmie Johnson back or does his team still have a way to go to compete for wins?

It’s a question that will be asked often going into Sunday’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway.

Johnson enters as the track record holder with 11 wins on the 1-mile concrete speedway. If he wins Sunday, some might view it as the team still has the right setup for the track. If Johnson struggles, the questions may grow louder on what’s wrong with the No. 48 team.

MORE: Friday 5 – Chevrolet’s struggles starting to reach historic proportions

How does Johnson view it?

“I think I’m doomed, regardless, right now,’’ he said Friday at Dover. “I mean it doesn’t matter the track or the result unless it’s a win and lots of wins. I think we have created an environment of very high expectations because of the success we’ve had and I think people forget how special our run has been.

“We certainly want to get back to those ways and have it happen again. But history shows it doesn’t happen very often. And we’re very fortunate to harness lightning for a long stretch of time.

“The encouraging news is we are making our cars better each and every week. I’m more of a realist in where we’re at and what we’re doing and reflect back and think damn, we had it really good for a while and it was really special. But we’re a victim of our own success, and I hope to create the headlines that we want and the headlines being along the lines of well, they should have won, it was Dover.”

The team got off to a good start Friday. Johnson was second on the speed chart to Paul Menard in practice.

Johnson’s last Cup win (the 83rd of his career) was at this track last June. He enters this weekend with a 33-race winless streak, the longest in his career.

Johnson has shown progress. He finished third at Bristol, sixth at Richmond and 12th at Talladega in the past three weeks.

As for the team’s struggles, Johnson said:

“We just haven’t had the cars where we need them. And, I’m a part of that process. So, I’m not pointing fingers. I think as a group from everybody at Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and everybody on the No. 48 car and my other three teammates and their teams, we collectively need to do a better job. And we’re working hard on it and we are doing a better job.

“We’re seeing those rewards slowly coming along. I think we have been the benchmark or that high watermark for so many years, that other manufacturers and teams invested a couple of years in figuring out how to beat us. And we’re living through that right now. We’re needing to recreate ourselves and how we go about handling business.”

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Jordan Anderson in fiery crash in Talladega Truck race

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson was airlifted to an area hospital after being involved in a fiery crash during Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Anderson’s car caught fire in the middle of a pack of drafting trucks. Flames burst from three areas around the truck as Anderson tried to slow the vehicle and move onto the track apron. The truck hit the inside wall. Anderson climbed from the vehicle in a cloud of smoke as it came to a stop.

Anderson, 31 and a resident of Forest Acres, S.C., was transported to the infield medical center before being airlifted. NASCAR confirmed Anderson’s trip to the hospital.

Fox Sports reported that a team member said Anderson had burns.

Anderson is a part-time driver in the Truck Series. He has a top finish of 14th this season.

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

Noah Gragson, who qualified seventh, is replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms.

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

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