Nothing’s certain but death, taxes, and Jimmie Johnson contending at Dover

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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.

Last fall, Johnson won at Dover for the eighth time and it proved critical in his ultimately successful bid for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

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.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.