Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Lessons learned from Darlington, Jimmie Johnson focused on what’s ahead

Leave a comment

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It’s quite simple, Jimmie Johnson says.

“We just need to stop making mistakes,’’ said the seven-time champion, who has yet to secure a playoff spot entering Sunday’s regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Last weekend’s 39th-place at Darlington Raceway produced a litany of mistakes. The woes cut Johnson’s lead on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman, who holds the final playoff spot, to 19 points.

Johnson and Bowman will make the playoffs if there is a repeat winner Sunday. If there is a new winner, then one of them will be bumped from the playoffs. Johnson is the only driver who has never failed to qualify for the playoffs/chase since the format debuted in 2004.

Johnson’s woes last week included all facets of the team. It started in qualifying. He hit the wall in the second round. With the race an impound event, the team had to start at the back of the 40-car field because the repairs came after qualifying.

Johnson climbed to 14th in the race before he had a loose wheel. He had a commitment line violation on that pit stop and had to return for a penalty. His race later ended after ran oil pump issue.

“There’s plenty of learn,” Johnson said of the Darlington weekend. “First and foremost, I look at myself. The excitement of having a good first round in qualifying, the frustration of having a bad first attempt in the second round led to me running wide in Turn 4. There’s the first mistake. I can learn a lot from that for sure.

“Going into the race, work our way into the top 15 and unfortunately a loose wheel, those things happen, it’s a part of it, a mistake there. I compound the mistake by missing pit road. Here we go again.

“Then the oil pump situation that happened. I think we learned a lot from that to make sure that doesn’t happen to our cars again in the future, especially at that track. So there are plenty of takeaways, plenty of things we learned. Kind of the overarching thing for me is compounding mistakes. People make mistakes, let’s not make a bad situation worse.

“We just need to stop making mistakes. I think I was in a position and drove outside of my means and drove over the 100 percent level because I knew I had such a good car. And I’m so eager to get back to winning and get back to leading laps that I just tried too hard.”

Johnson has two top-10 finishes in the last 11 races. He has gone career-long 48 races since his last Cup victory. When asked Saturday what a win this weekend would mean in what has been a difficult season, he said: “I couldn’t even put it into words.

“We’ve worked so hard and have had some good moments along the way that could have turned into great moments,” he said. “And mistakes on my behalf or the team or whatever it might be; bad luck, misfortune, we’ve just not been able to capitalize on opportunities that have been there. Plus, we’ve had a tough year. So, it’s been extremely frustrating and extremely difficult to live through, but we are all still very eager to turn it around and know that we will.”

International Speedway Corp. announces weather protection program

Getty Images
Leave a comment

International Speedway Corp., whose tracks host 19 of the 36 Cup points races, announced a weather guarantee ticket program for fans on Wednesday, joining a similar program announced last month by Speedway Motorsports Inc.

The ISC Weather Protection Program goes toward all paid grandstand tickets to NASCAR races at any ISC facility that are postponed and rescheduled to a different date due to inclement weather.

ISC operates Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Michigan International Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Auto Club Speedway, Kansas Speedway, ISM Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

Guests will be able to exchange paid grandstand tickets that were not used on a rescheduled race date for a future NASCAR event at an ISC facility. The unused grandstand tickets may be exchanged for a same-series ticket of equal or lesser value based on event and seating location availability.

Guests with an unused grandstand ticket have 60 days to contact the ticket office at the ISC facility where the event was postponed. Eligible grandstand tickets may be exchanged for any future NASCAR race at an ISC facility within one year of the original event date or for the same race the following year, except for the Daytona 500. Customers who have tickets to a postponed Daytona 500 event may exchange their tickets for a future Daytona 500.

“Race fans make significant investments to attend NASCAR races at our facilities,” said ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy in a press release. “When inclement weather impacts the schedule, it can be frustrating. The ISC Weather Protection Program addresses that concern and provides an assurance to our guests that if they can’t attend the rescheduled event, they will have the opportunity to see another race at another ISC facility.”

TicketGuardian’s FanShield insurance technology gives fans security when buying tickets in advance. The low-cost coverage protects fans from reselling their ticket or losing their money altogether if they’re unable to attend the event. Customers instead can receive a refund.

Click here for more details.

Jimmie Johnson to drive rookie paint scheme in Cup season finale

Getty Images
1 Comment

Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports will end their 17-year relationship with Lowe’s in style.

When Johnson and the No. 48 team show up for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18 on NBC), Johnson’s car will have his rookie year paint scheme from 2002.

Johnson follows Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, who drove their rookie schemes in last year’s season finale.

The scheme will cap off a partnership that began with two Cup starts in 2001 before Johnson went full-time the next year.

In 2002, Johnson earned the first three wins of his career and sat on the pole for the Daytona 500. His first win came on April 28 at Auto Club Speedway.

With Lowe’s, Johnson has won seven championships and 83 races. Lowe’s announced in March it would not sponsor Johnson in 2019.

NASCAR America: Experience vs. Youth: Justin Allgaier battling Christopher Bell

Leave a comment

The Cup series has the Big 3. Xfinity has the Dynamic Duo.

As the Xfinity Series begins its playoffs Friday at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), many experts believe two drivers have an easy path to Homestead. Justin Allgaier has scored five wins and 39 playoff points. Christopher Bell has 32 playoff points. The next closest driver is Elliott Sadler with 11.

Allgaier is mindful of the accomplishments that brought him to this position. He is having a career year and knows it.

“Up until last year I’d won maybe one race a year at the max,” Allgaier told NBCSN’s Marty Snider during Xfinity Media Day. “Last year we won two, which was spectacular, but to be able to win five races this year, to have the regular-season championship, to just be as successful as we’ve been this year is just amazing.”

But that does not make him a favorite in his mind. There are simply too many other drivers that can win. Too many variables.

“There’s so many competitors right now in this Xfinity Series that are just absolutely fantastic. I don’t know that we have a clear-cut favorite,” Allgaier said.

On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Jeff Burton agreed.

“I think that (Allgaier’s) a favorite, but by a little bit, not a lot. … When I think about the Xfinity race from Richmond in the spring, Joe Gibbs Racing dominated it and it will be interesting to see, now as we go to more mile-and-halves … can Joe Gibbs Racing and Christopher Bell … get their rhythm back.”

Kyle Petty also puts Bell in the battle.

“This kid’s confident,” Petty said. “He shows confidence in every turn of the wheel. Everything he does. … and he shows great maturity.

“We’ve got youth and exuberance in Christopher Bell. We’ve got experience and maturity in Justin Allgaier and this is a battle. And it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America: Elliott Sadler wants to shed the bridesmaid role

Leave a comment

Elliott Sadler is the Mark Martin of the Xfinity Series, according to NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty.

“He’s been so close … so often. He’s almost like the Mark Martin of this series. Mark finished second so many times in the (Cup) championship.”

Martin finished second in the Cup standings five times without winning a championship. Sadler has finished second four times in the Xfinity Series and has not been worse than sixth since rejoining it fulltime in 2011.

Sadler knows the burning question is how he can shed the bridesmaid role. He also has a firm grip on what that is going to take.

“Justin (Allgaier) and Christopher (Bell) have pretty much told us you’re gonna have to win to advance,” Sadler told Marty Snider at Tuesday’s Xfinity Media Day. “They have been extremely fast – especially here lately. They’ve got nine wins between them.”

And with those nine wins, the playoff bonus points that ease their way to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

To join them in Miami, Sadler has to keep from getting swept into the temptation to make something happen that the handling of the car will not support.

“As a driver, you’ve got to understand not to get too high and not to get too low – to try and stay even tempered because the intensity is definitely ramped up and you can get yourself in trouble here real quick and the next thing you know you’re digging yourself out of a hole,” Sadler said.

Petty agrees. While Sadler’s lack of a championship does not detract from his career any more than it did Martin’s, earning that elusive honor is going to be tough for the very reasons Sadler identified.

“He’s probably mentally in a better place this year, but he’s going up against a couple of guys in Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier … that he believes are already in Homestead,” Petty said. “He’s going up against guys that are having career years.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter