Jimmie Johnson’s emergence as the most dominant stock car racer of the last decade has no doubt been fueled in part by his success at Dover International Speedway.
What’s been impressive is that Johnson, along with crew chief Chad Knaus and his Hendrick Motorsports team, has been able to stay strong over the years at Dover through multiple generations of cars.
No matter the changes, no matter the rules package, they’ve always been at or near the front at this track. To Johnson, it all comes down to finding the proper feeling behind the wheel.
“Over time, as things change, I just pay attention to the feeling I’m looking for and we work through whatever challenges are thrown at us with different tires that are brought in and also [different] generations of car,” he said.
“This is still the Gen-6 car, but there’s a different rules package under it. [But] regardless of change, there are some tracks that just work well for you and you’re able to still find that feeling you’re looking for regardless of circumstances.”
Johnson figures to be a threat as usual in Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at the Monster Mile, where he not only has the all-time wins record but also leads active drivers in several critical “loop data” categories including average running position (6.8), fastest laps run (990), and laps run in the Top 15 (6,261, or 86.9 percent of the time).
Dover arrives in the middle of a traditionally strong set of tracks for Johnson, counting Charlotte Motor Speedway – where he won last weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 – and Pocono Raceway, where he’s won three times in his career (including last summer).
All three tracks are drastically different, with Charlotte as a standard 1.5-mile quad-oval, Dover as a concrete mile, and Pocono as a 2.5-mile triangle with three unique corners.
But in Johnson’s mind, they’re the “most technical tracks we go to” – which could be interpreted as a reason behind the 48 crew’s success at those circuits.
“Set-up is key, and communication between driver and crew chief is key,” he said. “Charlotte and Dover, you have such loading characteristics as you’re on the straightaway lunging off into the corner that you can draw some similarities between those two tracks.
“But Pocono – it’s so different, I don’t know how to even draw a parallel other than it’s tough to get around. Dover isn’t easy, Charlotte isn’t easy, and neither is Pocono.”