If ever there was a place for Jimmie Johnson to break out of his winless streak it would be at Dover International Speedway, site of this Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism. The 42 year old has owned this racetrack, winning there 11 times.
The last time he won there was at this event last year. He has nearly as many victories at Dover than all of the driver’s combined that are racing on Sunday.
Not only would this race break a nearly year-long slump, but a win would be his 84th of his career, tying him with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. Yet despite all of his prowess on the mile-long track, he is not the favorite. Kyle Busch is at 3/1, followed by Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick at 5/1. Johnson is lumped in with Martin Truex Jr. at 7/1.
That hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the race, or his chances this weekend.
“I love Dover, wish we raced there more than twice a year,” Johnson said. “It’s a great race for this Lowe’s for Pros team and I absolutely cannot wait to get there.”
Experience Helps Johnson
His adeptness at Dover has been honed over the years, though he did win his first two times there in 2002. Still, he has learned a few nuances about the layout in 16 years of competing there.
“Finding your balance is probably the most challenging thing at Dover,” Johnson said. “Corner entry is everything. Concrete tracks are poured in squares just like on an interstate so there are a bunch of expansion joints around the track and it really shakes and rattles the car. Its bumpy – and there are bumps in Turns 1 and 3. So if your car isn’t bottoming out and your splitter isn’t hitting, you are usually OK and it’s just part of the ride at Dover.”
Even with all his knowledge Johnson knows he is running a rough road regarding results. Since his June 2017 win at Dover, he had only one other top 5 result and that was the Fall race at the same place.
Trying to Get on Track
This year hasn’t been much better. He went all the way until April until he got a top 5, a third-place finish at the Food City 500. He began the race in 17th position and fought up to the lead.
After that result Johnson talked about not winning and some were even whispering that the middle-aged driver should think of retiring.
“I think most situations momentum does carry you up or down,” Johnson said. “If things seem to be going wrong, they continue for a while. Sometime it’ll turn around, you just don’t know when.”
Busch Looking for Fourth
Kyle Busch has the next most victories of any active driver at Dover with three. His last was October last year. He also comes into this race with three wins on the year.
It is a course that the 33 year old enjoys.
“It’s definitely a fast racetrack,” Busch said. “It’s a fun racetrack, too. It makes it interesting when you get to traffic, when you have to pass guys, when you’re kind of falling down into the hole and jumping back up out of the hole to the straightaways.