DOVER, Del. — Jimmie Johnson was proper the place he was accustomed to being — on the prime of the scoring pylon at Dover Worldwide Speedway.
OK, it was Saturday afternoon, not Sunday. And it was observe, not the Gander RV 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
However, the pace in observe — 161.863 mph — and his skill to work the surface lane gave the seven-time champion trigger for optimism as Sunday’s predominant occasion approaches.
Though he is the all-time victory chief with 11 wins on the Monster Mile, Johnson must discover a constructive outlook wherever he can. Johnson’s 11th triumph at Dover was additionally his most up-to-date within the Monster Vitality NASCAR Cup Sequence.
That was June 4, 2017, and since then, 69 races have handed since Johnson final visited Victory Lane. However that hasn’t diminished his fondness for Dover — or his conviction that he can win.
“Possibly I am a idiot, however simply each time I come right here, I really feel like this,” Johnson mentioned after the ultimate observe. “That is simply a type of locations that an athlete finds a bond with a facility or a venue that they join with.
“I do not care if I’ve solely three wheels on that factor, I nonetheless really feel like I’d have a shot to win. I simply love this place.”
Among the many 4 Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Johnson was slowest in Friday’s qualifying session. Chase Elliott gained the pole, and teammate William Byron will begin beside him on the entrance row. Alex Bowman certified fifth, with Johnson incomes the 12th beginning place.
However as dramatically as monitor circumstances change at Dover, Johnson was inspired by Saturday’s observe.
“One factor I did see that was very nice is that the surface lane appeared to have a bit extra of a chance,” Johnson mentioned. “With lower-downforce packages right here, you’ll be able to’t decide to working lots of wide-open throttle across the exterior.
“At present in observe not less than, with all this downforce (due to a taller rear spoiler launched this 12 months), I might climb within the throttle exhausting and carry lots of pace off the corners. I noticed another automobiles on the market doing it, too. So perhaps this package deal will open up the groove and get us two or three lanes of nice side-by-side racing.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ENCOURAGED BY STRONG FINAL PRACTICE
Martin Truex Jr. was significantly completely satisfied together with his 13th-place qualifying effort on Friday.
In actual fact, Truex had the second-fastest Toyota in time trials, behind solely eighth-place Denny Hamlin. Saturday’s closing observe — the one observe of the day, because it turned out, with the opening session canceled due to a moist race monitor — was a special story.
Truex was second quickest within the session behind solely Johnson, and he was happy with the progress.
“We gained on it some, for certain,” mentioned Truex, the 2017 Monster Vitality NASCAR Cup Sequence champion. “Yesterday in qualifying, I used to be just a little disillusioned with 13th, to be trustworthy with you. I felt like we might do a greater job than that, and we usually qualify higher than that right here. Once more, an entire completely different guidelines package deal and a brief observe and we simply missed it just a little.
“That is a part of the deal right here. The sector is so shut, and also you acquire or lose a tenth [of a second], and you’ll go from top-5 to 13th. That is simply the way in which it’s. Missed it just a little bit yesterday however made some enhancements at the moment, and I am feeling actually good about the place the automobile is. It is actually snug to drive, and I feel there’s some issues we are able to do to make it higher. Our speeds and our averages all look fairly good.
“Right here, you get within the race and it is all about having a automobile that drives the way in which you want it to, not a lot about how briskly it’s. Because the monitor goes that path, it fits my type right here, and that is usually once I’ve been at my finest. When the monitor will get rubbered in, it will get greasy and will get slick. That is sort of once I’ve been in a position to do rather well right here. We’ll see what occurs, however feeling good about it proper now.”
–By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Particular to Area Degree Media