Johnson Enjoying Kansas Challenge

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson has a career 7.9 average finish at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson is the defending winner of the Hollywood Casino 400, but it will be a completely different challenge at the new Kansas Speedway to make it back-to-back trips to Victory Lane.

The repaved and reconfigured track features a new asphalt surface as well as progressive banking through the corners. Even after several days of practice most drivers believes the sixth race of the Chase will be a complete unknown.

However, Johnson welcomes the challenge.

“Well it’s going to be interesting with the repave but I have always liked the track,” said Johnson, who will start seventh in Sunday’s race. “Some tracks you just click with and this is one of them. There are a lot of options as far as racing. It is similar to Chicago, which is another good track for me. We will see how the changes affect things but, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Speeds in qualifying were lightning fast with every driver in Sunday’s 43-car starting lineup eclipsing the previous track qualifying record set by Matt Kenseth in 2005.

Johnson said he had to hold on and hammer down to put up the lap that earned him a top-10 starting spot in Sunday’s race.

“There is an old saying, drive it in the corner and don't hit the brakes until you see, and there's a few names that come about, and Elvis is the one I grew up hearing about,” Johnson explained. “So, I saw Elvis again, and went a little further yet. I had a great lap.

“The car is very fast. It's awfully close up there at the top. It's hard to look back at the lap and see where I could have been faster because you are just driving your guts out, and really doing all that you can all the way around the track.”

Johnson enters the weekend trailing Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship leader Brad Keselowski by seven points with five races left in the regular season.

The five-time champion says he’s enjoying battling for another crown and looks forward to Sunday’s race, which might be more of a Wild Card than Talladega.

"It's going to be a big guessing game,'' Johnson said.

"It is tough to work on a plan, but the 48 team has always adjusted well and I think our experience in pressure situations at different race tracks helps us. We welcome the change and the excitement. It's been a fun couple days and I'm looking forward to [Saturday] and Sunday, as well.

"I'm having a lot of fun in this championship battle. This has been a very competitive Chase. I've enjoyed racing the No. 11 [ Denny Hamlin] and the No. 2 [Keselowski] week in and week out and putting the pressure on.''

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