NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson wants Bluegrass breakthrough

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Doesn’t this sound familiar – Jimmie Johnson, coming to a track where he’s ran well but has never won on in his Sprint Cup career?

No, your mind’s not playing tricks on you. We were talking about this very scenario just two weeks ago heading into Michigan, before Johnson finally nailed down a victory at the fast, two-mile oval.

That left Johnson with four tracks where he’s never picked up a Cup win, and we have another of those tracks coming up this weekend: Kentucky Speedway, where he experienced perhaps one of his more frustrating 2013 outings.

In last year’s race at Kentucky, Johnson led 182 of 267 laps but everything fell apart for him on a late restart with 21 laps to go. Slow to come up to speed at the green flag, Johnson stacked the field and then spun out in Turn 2.

He took the subsequent restart in 25th place and charged all the way to ninth in the final 17 laps. That did little to comfort Johnson, who accused race leader and eventual winner Matt Kenseth of breaking protocol on the restart with 21 laps left.

If you check the statistics, Johnson’s been reliably consistent since the Sprint Cup Series started visiting Kentucky: One Top-5 and three Top-10s in three starts, a strong average finish of 6.0, and the lead in multiple “loop data” categories.

But with three wins already in the bank this season, Johnson will surely being going for broke in order to take a checkered flag in the Commonwealth.

“It would be great to go to Kentucky and win, to cross another track off our list,” he said in a Chevy release today. “We have run really well there, led a lot of laps but just haven’t been able to score a win. Last weekend, we had a really great run going [finished seventh at Sonoma].

“I’m really proud of this team and I’m just looking forward to the upcoming tracks before the off-weekend – Kentucky, Daytona and New Hampshire.”

Johnson certainly has had success at those latter two tracks with three wins apiece at “The World Center of Racing” and the “Magic Mile.” But right now, his focus is on getting rid of his Kentucky goose-egg.

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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