FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Jimmie Johnson certainly knows his way to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
Already with two wins this season, Johnson is back in Texas, where he has won the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup races and five of the last seven.
“It’s just this race track. I think tracks with an older surface; the bumpier it is, the more tire wear, it’s just a condition that plays into our wheelhouse,” Johnson said. “And we’ve hit on some things here over the last few trips and it consistently works for us and it continues to put speed and longevity in the car.”
But Johnson has never had to come from so far back in the field to win at the high-banked, 1 1/2-mile track. Johnson will start 11th on Saturday night in the Duck Commander 500.
Johnson started eighth or better is all six of his victories at Texas. In the 30 previous races there, only six of the winners qualified worse than 10th, and the last was 11 races ago in 2010.
Still, Johnson has dominated in his No. 48 Chevrolet at Texas, where his record six Sprint Cup wins are twice as many as the next closest driver — Carl Edwards, the polesitter. Johnson has led 1,023 laps and has 19 top-10 finishes, both records at the track starting its 20th season of racing.
Matt Kenseth also has been impressive in Texas, matching Johnson’s mark with 13 top-five finishes and second to Johnson in top-10 finishes (17), laps led (834) and average finish (9.46).
Asked what he has noticed about Johnson’s success in the Lone Star State, Kenseth responded that the biggest thing is that the six-time Sprint Cup champion is pretty good everywhere.
“He’s not too much of a slouch anywhere that I can really think of,” Kenseth said. “Nothing really stands out special to here, really to me.”
Kenseth is 14th in points this season, with his lone top-10 finish coming in the only race that he didn’t lead any laps.
Kenseth missed Texas last fall while serving the first of his two-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano the previous week. Before that, Kenseth had consecutive finishes of 23rd and 25th there, and his wins were back in 2002 and the 2011 spring race.
“Haven’t done too well here in recent history, but before that it’s always been a good track for us,” said Kenseth, who will start ninth. “I like the challenge of the different ends of the race track that are different and the worn out pavement. I think the low aero package is going to be different.”
Some things to watch in the 31st Sprint Cup race at Texas:
UNDER THE LIGHTS: Joey Logano, who will start second, said there is “nothing big” about making the transition to the racing at night for the first time this season. “Obviously, the mornings are a lot more relaxed than what it is if you were racing at one or two o’clock, so obviously that changes it a little bit,” he said. “But it’s like you have a night schedule and a daytime schedule for races as a driver as your prep stuff.”
STUFFED GOAT: Lil’ Dale was a Nubian goat born in Florida in 2002 with a white No. 3 marking on its otherwise brown fur that resembled the “3” made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt. The goat that died last year will be immortalized at Texas Motor Speedway. TMS President Eddie Gossage struck an undisclosed deal with the goat’s owner to bring it back to Texas for permanent display after taxidermy. The goat was revealed Friday, with Gossage saying Lil’ Dale will serve as “part mascot, part good-luck charm” at the track.
ON THE POLE: Edwards is the seventh different polesitter in seven Cup races this season. Edwards has three wins at Texas, the last when he swept the 2008 races, but none of those victories were from the pole. Edwards and Johnson are the only drivers with more than two Cup wins at Texas.
KURT’S CREW CHIEF: Tony Gibson, crew chief for driver Kurt Busch, is expected to be on top of the No. 41 Chevrolet pit box Saturday night after missing the first two days of racing weekend. Stewart-Haas Racing said Gibson stayed home in North Carolina to care for his wife, who is dealing with an unspecified illness. Johnny Klausmeier served as interim crew chief while Busch qualified 21st.