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The Hot Pass: Johnson hoping to avoid madness
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.For the first time in his career, Jimmie Johnson posted the fastest lap in qualifying at Watkins Glen International. Johnson topped the speed chart with a lap of 71.340 seconds (123.633 mph) Friday afternoon. It was his first pole of the season and the 20th of his career. "Truthfully, in anything, second really sucks," Johnson said. Johnson is looking for better luck at the Glen than the only other time he started up front that time, thanks to rain and finished 40th. It was his only DNF in seven starts on the 2.45-mile circuit, but it underscores his difficulty with the course. Despite having 43 career Cup wins, Johnson has never posted a victory on a road course. His best performance to date is third at the Glen in 2007. However, given how the competition has ramped up its aggression over the last few races, Johnson should have an advantage at the Glen where track position is imperative. Johnson said he feels fortunate to be in control of the lead when the race begins. He's just hoping to hold on to the point following the cautions. "With double-file restarts, that first lap is going to be awfully damn exciting," Johnson said. "You get to the bus stop on the initial start everybody is pretty calm, you don't want to be out the first lap so give and take takes place. You get three or four restarts and you lose some spots and the herd just gets agitated. "It's going to be exciting going through there. If you can stay on the blacktop there's going to be a lot of pushing a shoving, but if you get on the grass then you're going to end up in that sand trap on the outside. If you can stay on the blacktop then you're going to be OK." But what about the remaining laps when certain competitors lose control and appear to be audtioning for "NASCAR Drivers Gone Wild?" Must race officials baby-sit the entire field or simply let the leaders race? Although NASCAR closely monitored the field at Pocono and penalized Robby Gordon and David Stremme for aggressive driving after continual contact, the sanctioning body failed to police the situation between Denny Hamlin and David Reutimann with 25 laps remaining in the Pennsylvania 500 this past Monday. Hamlin's attack on Reutimann resulted in the No. 00 Toyota spinning and collecting Marcos Ambrose in the process as both cars were running in the top 10.
Stremme reboundsKurt Busch, who qualified second (71.348 seconds) is expected to put on a good show at Watkins Glen, but how about his Penske Racing teammate David Stremme? Stremme was a pleasant surprise with the fifth fastest lap (71.810 seconds) on Friday. Although Stremme ran the Cup event in 2007 and finished 21st, he had never made a qualifying run at the track before this weekend. "For me, it's pretty good," said Stremme. "It's just me getting more seat time. I don't have a lot of experience at this track.
Sure, Robby Gordon and David Stremme may be a battle brewing, but they don't compare to the best |