AVONDALE, Arizona — Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson is currently wrapping up one of the statistically worst seasons of his career. The driver of the famed No. 48 is looking to rebound at ISM Raceway – a place that has been very kind to him in his 19-year career.
While the lifetime Hendrick Motorsports driver will start the Bluegreen Vacations 500 in the 22nd position, he feels optimistic about his car – even with the limited time he feels the premier series had on the Arizona-based track.
“The guys did a really good job getting speed in the car,” Johnson told POPULAR SPEED. “We only got two laps in, so it’s tough to tell. It’s was tough to understand what was going on in practice as well. It was cut short for us because we didn’t pass tech last week and the track is just now rubbering in, so the first practice was kind of a wash.
“The second one went by so fast. We knew we were off, but we knew where to attack. The guys did a great job putting more speed in the car and I’m optimistic, but I won’t know until we get in there and lay down those first few laps.”
The 43-year old enters ISM Raceway off a tough weekend that saw him slip in the traction compound at Texas Motor Speedway, getting into the wall. The PJ1 returns this weekend in the higher groove at the 1.5-mile speedway.
“It wasn’t part of my issue last week – I will say that at Michigan (International Speedway), it got me – but it is what it is,” said the seven-time champion. “The harder that stuff is, the more grip it has. After cautions or certainly at the start of the race, we know this stuff isn’t going to have grip going into turns one and two. It’s always been the same, but I feel a lot of drivers didn’t realize it until they were riding around on the pickup trucks before the race, waving at the fans.”
Johnson has the second-most wins at ISM Raceway among active drivers, including three consecutive wins spanning from 2007-08 and one addition victory in the Fall of 2009. The track formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway has not been too kind to the Team Chevy driver since the reconfiguration in 2018, as he only has one top-10 finish. This will by no means be an easy event for Johnson to overcome, but it’s hard to go against a confident driver who has 15 top-fives, 21 top-10s and an average finish of 10.2 at a venue where he also has four wins.
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