FORT WORTH, Texas – If ever there were a track where Jimmie Johnson could be expected to break out of his current funk, Texas Motor Speedway would certainly be a likely candidate.
After all, the seven-time champion is a record seven-time winner at the 1.5-mile speedway. And even though Friday’s qualifying session was halted by the threat of lightning and limited to one round, Johnson was encouraged that he had found speed in his car.
That wasn’t the case when the team unloaded the No. 48 Chevrolet.
“We started off and struggled pretty bad,” Johnson said. “I think the track was just really far off from what we anticipated. At the very end of (opening) practice, things started going much better for us and popped off a decent lap there (in the first round of qualifying) and making good gains.”
Those gains were apparent in Saturday’s first practice, too. In cold conditions after a drastic overnight drop in temperature, Johnson was fourth fastest in the session at 198.639 mph.
In final practice, Johnson ran just three laps, but his third one was the fastest of the session at 198.143 mph.
That’s a welcome omen, given that Johnson hasn’t led a lap yet this year. In fact, the seven-time champ has led laps in only two of the last 25 races (five at Dover and 24 at Martinsville last year).