Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson couldn't wait to renew acquaintances with the famous Yard of Bricks Thursday, July 12 during a promotional visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"There's something so special about this racetrack," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter how many times you've raced here, if you've won here or not, when you come back and you see the bricks, it's such a cool experience, and I wanted to jump out there and look at the area where I'll hopefully kiss them when we're here in a few weeks."
Johnson will try to join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as a four-time NASCAR winner at IMS during the Crown Royal Presents the "Your Hero's Name Here" 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com. Sunday, July 29. Johnson won the Brickyard in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
"Without a doubt, it's in my mind," Johnson said. "But when you come back each year, the energy around this racetrack, the excitement that comes with it, there's a new sense of desire to win each time I come. The times I've been able to come back and repeat have been cool, and that adds to a very cool stat. But I'm more about the energy surrounding that individual event; it's just really cool."
With all the success he's enjoyed at the Brickyard, Johnson knows smart driving and strategy play a big role for winners at the famous, 2.5-mile IMS oval. But he also believes events the day before the race are equally important.
"The biggest thing, really, is track position," he said. "You create your best opportunity for track position in qualifying, so making sure you qualify well, and even strategy during the race, when you have to pit for fuel and tires makes such a difference. So the areas we can control, we need to make sure we do a damn good job in those areas."
Johnson has earned 57 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories during his career in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. His five consecutive series titles (2006-10) are a NASCAR record. After 18 races this season, Johnson is in fourth place in the Sprint Cup point standings and in strong position to contend for a sixth series title. But there's always room for improvement.
"The restrictor-plate stuff has been tough on us," he said. "We can't seem to finish one of those races yet, but everything else has been strong. We've had a lot of speed, and we've been winning races. My teammates have been winning races. We still got to get the 24 (Gordon) in victory lane. I think it's kind of a luck deal. He's had plenty of speed and some of the weirdest things happen to his car; flat tires, blown engines.
"The good news within all of it is that our cars are fast, and that's exciting as we get closer to the Chase because this is all fun, but another championship is what I'm really after."
Johnson also is anxious to see the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM Road Racing make their IMS debuts as part of the inaugural Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard, featuring four races in three days. Johnson thought about driving in both events.
"This is a great facility, and I'm happy for the other two divisions to get their chance over here and have an opportunity to race," he said. "I considered running both events, but things have just been so busy, and then trying to balance family life with the professional side, I decided to not compete in either one of them, and I know I'll be bummed out when I see those cars on track over Friday and Saturday. But it's going to be good for all those drivers, for both series, as well."
GRAND-AM will conduct separate races at IMS for its Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for the first time Friday, July 27. These races will join with the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International in determining the winners of the prestigious new North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com for 2012.