Johnson Fan of Fontana

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson is a five-time winner at Auto Club Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson has his eyes set on a sixth Auto Club Speedway victory in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

The five-time Sprint Cup Series champion has enjoyed great success at the southern California track and another trip to Victory Lane would cap a big week for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

Johnson jumped from 17th to 11th in the series standings after the 25 point penalty for pre-Daytona 500 infractions was restored when the Hendrick Motorsports team won appeal of the penalties NASCAR handed down during Speedweeks.

The California native is hoping to move even further up the points with a good performance on Sunday at what is one of his favorite tracks for obvious reasons.

“I’ve been really successful at Auto Club Speedway. It’s my home track,” said the El Cajon, California native. “We got our first Sprint Cup career win there in ’02, so it’s a special track to me. I definitely always see some friends and family while we are out there. I remember last year, we were very close to victory lane, about three-quarters of a mile away from the trophy, but Kevin Harvick found a way around the outside. So, I know we’ll go there and be very competitive this time.”

Another Fontana checkered flag would not just give Johnson a sixth win at the track but also give team owner Rick Hendrick his coveted 200th Sprint Cup Series win.

“It is a big deal to him,” Johnson said. “We haven’t had a lot of bantering between the drivers, but we know how important it is to Rick and the company. We know that he hauls those hats around to remind us of that. And before each race he says something like, ‘Are we going today?’ and gives you that look. And we certainly want to get there for him.”

Johnson has made 17 starts at the two-mile Fontana track and made it to Victory Lane five times. He’s had a number of standout memories there over the years but one stands out more than others.

“For sure, my first win,” he said. “That was everything to me and my career. I knew driving Jeff’s (Gordon) equipment that, if I didn’t win after he came off a championship season and basically handed me his cars, I was going to be in trouble. So to win in my 13th start and 10th race of that season, that is my most memorable win, period.”

This weekend’s homecoming will be even more special for Johnson as he campaigns the Jimmie Johnson Foundation color scheme on the familiar Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. Johnson is proud of the effort the organization has made over the years to help a number of charitable causes and looks forward to shining the spotlight on the foundation during the Fontana race weekend.

“To be able to do this is very special to (wife) Chani and me,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t do it without the support of Lowe’s, though. They are the ones who allow this to happen, and we really appreciate it.

“I’m proud of what we have been able to do to help the communities where Chani and I grew up and now live, and this is just a cool way to bring attention those causes. By letting us have the foundation logos on the car, it lets us get the word out about the things the foundation is involved in.”

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