Johnson Brings First Points Lead of the Season to "His House"

Jim BobCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2009

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, leads Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #77 Mobil 1 Dodge, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway on October 11, 2009 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is back atop the series driver standings for the first time this season as the series heads into Lowe's Motor Speedway, a track that is endorsed not only by his primary car sponsor but by his record at the track. Although recently, his success at "his house" has been diminished.

Johnson's last win came in 2005 at Charlotte, which was the final race before the track was repaved prior to the following season. The repaving was after the track surface started eating up a tires, which became very noticeable after the 2005 Coca-Cola 600 which was the longest race in its history.

"It was one of those tracks that just worked," Johnson said. "They ground the track and it still worked well for us. We came back and it was resurfaced and we were competitive but we didn't have an advantage by any means. I really think the surface has a lot to do with it. It has made the track more forgiving than it was in the past and I think it helped close the gap. I am hoping the track hurries up and ages and gets rough and bumpy and turns back in to the track it used to be."

Of all the weekends, though. Johnson would really like to take the victory at Charlotte, as this will be the last race of Lowe's track entitlement of the speedway.

"Without a doubt, it really would be nice to win there," Johnson said. "It has been a great relationship with the track and Lowe's and then all the victories we have had there have been really neat."

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin was the one who moved to make room for Johnson in the standings. Martin, who held the points lead ever since the chase started this season, is still just 12 points from the top of the standings with plenty of time before we reach Homestead in November. If you ask Martin, the chase among the top-two teammates is "going to be a dog fight."

The News:

  • AJ Allmendinger recorded his first DNF of the season last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.  In fact, coming into the race, Richard Petty Motorsports had only one DNF to their name prior to a multi-car incident late in the race that took out all four of the teams cars.  It's also Allmendinger's 75th Sprint Cup Series start this weekend.
  • Jeff Burton will make his 850th NASCAR start this weekend at Charlotte.  To date, Burton has 541 Sprint Cup starts, 304 Nationwide starts and four Truck Series starts.
  • Eight crew members have been chosen as finalists for the NASCAR Craftsman "Wrenchman of the Year" Award. Greg Osborne (No. 13 team), Greg Cooke (No. 07), Jeff Meendering (No. 14), Andrew Mason (No. 29), Matt Earnest (No. 7), Steve Ellis (No. 33), Kevin Pennell (No. 39) and Rich Burgess (No. 31) are the finalists. Voting is now open by going to  Once you sign up, you can vote once a day.
  • Joey Logano comes into Charlotte leading the Rookie of the Year standings over Scott Speed by 23 points.
  • Clint Bowyer will wear a special, fan-selected driver suit this weekend for sponsor "Count Chocula" ceral, a General Mills brand.  He will also drive a special paint scheme that features the cereal's monster characters to sport a Halloween theme at the track this weekend.
  • Kyle Busch was still feeling sick when the team sent out their weekly report on Wednesday.  Nonetheless, the track says his health has improved and he feels he has a better chance this weekend.

The Word:

  • Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford: "We’ve run well there the last couple of years and I think we could have had a decent finish there in the spring if rain hadn’t been a factor.  I’m looking forward to going back there this weekend and seeing what we can do.  Charlotte is definitely one of those tracks on the circuit where a driver really wants to get a win and it would be incredible to get this 3M team into victory lane in front of the home crowd.”
  • Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet: “We ran really well at Charlotte in May and I’d love to have another good run this weekend.  We got bit a little bit by the rain, but we ran in and around the top five most of that race. I seem to run better at tracks that have a lot of grip, and Charlotte is definitely one of those tracks.  You always want to run well in Charlotte because it’s in our back yards so a lot of people and crew members are there from the shop that don’t usually get to be at the track, plus it’s under the lights and that just make it cool.”
  • Paul Menard, driver of the No. 98 Menard's Ford: “It’s always nice this time of year when we get to be home for a couple of weeks.  This weekend we are at Charlotte and next weekend we go up the road to Martinsville.  I know it’s great for all the crew guys because they get to spend some extra time at home with their friends and family, and this Saturday we get to race in front of them, which always makes the race a little more special to the guys."

The Info:

  • What: NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America
  • Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Cali.
  • When: When: Saturday, 7:25 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
  • Race distance: 250 laps, 500 miles
  • 2008 winner: Jeff Burton
  • 2008 polesitter: None (Weather)
  • Points leaders: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 5,728; 2. Mark Martin, 5,716; 3. Juan Pablo Montoya, 5,670; 4. Tony Stewart, 5,644; 5. Jeff Gordon, 5,623; 6. Kurt Busch, 5,607; 7. Greg Biffle, 5,540; 8. Carl Edwards, 5,536; 9. Denny Hamlin, 5,509; 10. Ryan Newman, 5,505; 11. Kasey Kahne, 5,422; 12. Brian Vickers, 5,377.