Jimmie Johnson was ight at home at his home race track in Friday’s lone NASCAR Cup practice session at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Johnson covered the two-mile high speed oval with the best speed of the 38 drivers that took to the track at 179.386 mph. In fact, Chevrolet drivers comprised the top three fastest drivers with Austin Dillon second-fastest (179.350), followed by Chris Buescher (178.975).
Johnson has had significant success at Auto Club Speedway in his career. He’s made 24 Cup starts there, earning six wins, 13 top-fives and 17 top-10s.
“There are tracks that a driver can make a difference at,” Johnson said. “Dover has always been one for me. This track has been one. The one thing that is so different right now is we’re back to a package we’ve run two other times this year. We’re on a high wear track.
“I look at Atlanta, it did not go well. Atlanta is similar to this place. So, I’m hopeful that we’ve made our car better since Atlanta for this type of environment. That’s what I think the whole Hendrick Motorsports crowd is focused on right now.”
Johnson’s winless streak is now at 63 races. His last victory was at Dover in spring 2017. He’d love to break that dubious streak Sunday on familiar ground.
“Without a doubt,” Johnson said. “And, I’m not into crashing cars. I’m not into crashing other people for the win. So, moving somebody out of the way for a win is the way you need to race.
“And then the thing that I find so funny is people want to say that NASCAR has lost its character and that drivers are scared and they won’t move somebody out of the way; and then a guy does it and you have this backlash. So, I don’t know.”
All of the fastest speeds in the session came from cars that had a draft.
Kyle Busch, who hopes to earn his 200th overall NASCAR victory of his career in either Saturday’s Xfinity race or Sunday’s Cup race, was fourth-fastest at 178.802 mph, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin (178.767).
Brad Keselowski was the fastest and only Ford driver in the top 10 with a sixth-best speed of 178.399 mph, followed by Chase Elliott (178.390), William Byron (178.108), Matt DiBenedetto (178.020) and Kyle Larson (178.686).
Qualifying for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 will take place later this afternoon at 5:40 p.m. ET.