Johnson Shoots for Loudon Repeat

Jimmie Johnson

Johnson topped the final practice session for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Jimmie Johnson has his sights set on making it two straight trips to Victory Lane in today’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Johnson held off Kurt Busch in a spirited battle during the closing laps of last season’s race to score his third victory at the one-mile track. He’s hoping for a similar performance in Sunday’s 19th race of the Sprint Cup Series season.

“Track position is key, and making sure that your pit strategy is right; this track is very low on tire wear and fuel mileage is really important,” said Johnson, who takes the green flag Sunday from the 28th starting position. “For whatever reason, as tough as it is to drive a CoT around here, and as tight as the racing groove is, we don’t end up with a lot of cautions. So you don’t have a lot of opportunities to work on the car.”

Johnson has made 18 Sprint Cup Series starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he has three wins, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.

He has one win so far this season and as the year races into the second half is looking for the competition level to intensify as the Chase nears in September.

“I still believe it’s anyone’s championship,” said Johnson who will shoot for an unprecedented sixth straight title in 2011. “And then it’s still a couple of months away; seven races away or whatever it is, and a lot can change between now and then, good and bad, for all the teams. I think it’s going to be a very difficult Chase to predict."

Although Johnson has been relatively consistent this year the Hendick Motorsports driver has not been as dominant as many predicted. He believes he has a solid chance at notching victory number two of the campaign Sunday in Loudon.

“I know that coming to a mile flat-track, we’ve had some things that we feel would work here and we’re excited to get on track today and hopefully have a very fast race car,” Johnson said before leading Saturday’s final practice session. “We’re doing well. We feel like we should be sitting here with three or four wins. We had some opportunities early and mistakes were made team-wide that prevented that from happening.”

Johnson understands his team does need to improve in certain areas in order to compete for more wins as well as another title including the 48 team’s intermediate track program. Last week’s race at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway opened both Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus’ eyes in a number of areas.

"I felt like last weekend the chance to race for the win, that’s something that we need to do before we realistically should expect to win,” Johnson said. “So it was nice to run in the top three, top-five all night long; put the pressure on the pit stops and put the pressure on myself in the car, and Chad on calling the race, and try to be in that moment, especially as we get closer to the Chase.

“As I’ve said every year, the pressure that is put on a team and a driver during the Chase is unlike anything else. So the more opportunities we have to race for wins and to be in that moment, the stronger we’ll be when the Chase comes around."

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