Johnson Looks To Double

LAS VEGAS - In Vegas terms, Jimmie Johnson looks to double down this weekend.

Johnson has had a great start to the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season with a Daytona 500 win and a runnerup at California Speedway, a trend he looks to continue as the defending winner of Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnson dominated last year's race and hopes to repeat that performance in Sunday's third race of the year.

"It's an exciting place to visit and a great place to race and an even better place to win," Johnson said. "We did that last year and would certainly like to do it again this weekend."

Johnson will have a different mount in this year's edition as he'll wheel the new Monte Carlo SS model in Sunday's race. But he's not looking for any drastic changes in Las Vegas, based on his run at Fontana two weeks ago.

"I think we are still learning the car," Johnson said, who will again be without crew chief Chad Knaus this week as he continues his suspension. "In the past, the car would usually start off usually free and get tight over a run. But today it was the opposite, so I am not sure if it is all body but we are working with a new car. It is still a Monte Carlo but all the templates are different and it is really a whole new model change."

In addition to his car, Johnson also has no concerns over racing again without Knaus calling the shots.

"Before I go to the race track, I think it is natural to over think things and be more concerned," he said. "But I learned this in Daytona, if I sit here and harp on it or dwell on the fact Chad is gone and dwell on it, I am going to start the race behind, further behind than I am already. So I believe in my guys, believe in myself, believe in the team and let's just go racing."

Johnson leads the series standings in this early portion of the season, but knows there's a long way to go and that the competition this season is tight.

"To me it looks a lot like last year," Johnson said. "I think we at Hendrick Motorsports have closed the gap and we have some great things we are working toward and hopefully we will be on the same page if not ahead of these (other teams) soon. But they have done great things with the Roush cars and the Gibbs guys are steady and strong and have been for a good 14 months, maybe 18 months when you look back on how these guys ran in 2004. They have been on their marks. We have had our runs, won some races and been able to compete, but I think we are really making ground right now."

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