Jimmie Johnson remembers early Brickyard struggles

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It seems hard to fathom now, but Jimmie Johnson wasn’t always a threat to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before claiming his first of four Brickyard 400 wins in 2006, Johnson earned just one Top-10 in his first four Sprint Cup races there.

“There are certain tracks that are very difficult to get sorted out and to know how to lead your team, and for me, this was one of the toughest ones that I came to,” Johnson recalled this morning at IMS before today’s sole Cup practice on the 2.5-mile oval.

“It took me a long time to get it, and the light finally turned on in my head – maybe it was, ’04, ’05. Mid-race, I’m like, ‘Man, I haven’t driven this track long since practice opened.’ I set my car up wrong and led my team in the wrong direction, and then in the race, it really dawned on me.”

But now, the six-time Cup champion is an almost regular challenger for victory whenever NASCAR’s top series visits the world’s greatest race course.

In order to reach that point, Johnson said he had to go against what he calls his “natural tendencies” as a driver. And as he said today, he still has to remind himself to do that every time he races Indy.

“I had to make a conscious effort to drive differently and I’ve been playing that movie in my head coming here and getting ready for this weekend’s race,” he said. “There are tracks where your natural driving tendencies suit you, and [Indy] just isn’t one of them for me.

“I’ve got to really change my game coming here and I’ve been able to identify [what I need to do]. I think that’s half the battle, just to understand that – don’t do what you think you need to do, try to think in an opposite manner to find speed.”

Johnson may have to go about things differently at Indy, but it’s definitely been working for him. He has finished first or second in four of the last six Brickyards.

Formula 1: Ricciardo on Monaco pole, Verstappen to start last

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Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has dominated all weekend long at the Monaco Grand Prix, leading every single practice session prior to qualifying.

And qualifying was more of the same for the Australian driver, whose quick lap in Q3 came in at 1:10.810, a new track record, to take the pole by more than two tenths of a second over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen endured a much more difficult day, which started with a hard crash in FP3.

Verstappen’s Red Bull RB14 suffered extensive damage to the right side, and even more damage was later found in the car’s gearbox. Such repairs ultimately proved too time consuming, and Verstappen will start Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix from last.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton filled out the top three by qualifying third, with Ferrari and Mercedes also taking the fourth and fifth spots on the grid, with Kimi Raikkonen in fourth and Valtteri Bottas in fifth.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, and Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. take up spots six, seven, and eight on the grid. Sergio Perez made it two Force Indias in Q3, qualifying ninth, while Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly qualified tenth.

Full qualifying results are below. Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix kicks off at 9:00 a.m. ET.

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