INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Can the driver known as “Five-Time” become “Double Five-Time?”
Jimmie Johnson would like nothing better.
Johnson already has five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships to his credit. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400, he has won four of the last seven races, tying him for most victories at the Brickyard with the man who discovered him, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.
“A fifth would be incredible,” Johnson said Saturday morning before NASCAR Sprint Cup practice. “I can’t believe I have four of them right now. This track, for one, took me a while to sort out. I was able to get a feel for things and start setting up the car for the proper line and driver inputs around here. Then things just started clicking for us.
“And to do anything Jeff Gordon has done is huge. The guy is massive in our sport and had done so much… It’s been an amazing ride all along, but to tie what Jeff has done here at the speedway is just absolutely amazing.”
Johnson’s quest for a fifth Brickyard win suffered a brief hiccup during practice when his No. 48 Chevrolet scraped the wall in the short chute between Turns 3 and 4, but after the mishap, his team switched the car to qualifying trim and Johnson posted a lap in excess of 187.379 mph, fourth fastest in Saturday’s session.
An aerial view of Indianapolis Motor Speedway might lead you to believe that the speedway has four symmetrical corners, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth from a driver’s standpoint.
“It’s a real technical track, and if you’re just looking at the race track, you would assume that all the corners look relatively similar,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “…But, to be honest, all the corners are really different, and as odd as it is, they are extremely different from each other. Turn 1 is really tight and feels and appears as (an) indication to how the car drives that it’s a much tighter and shorter-radius corner — and each corner after that appears to be less so.
“The car certainly doesn’t drive the same through them characteristically year after year. (What makes it) a technical track is the fact that the car drives differently in each corner, and you have to start adjusting on the car and trying to improve on something at one end and not ruin something at the other end of the track and make problems for yourself at the other end. That makes it a bit of a challenge — a good challenge.”
Earnhardt had difficulty finding a happy medium in Saturday morning’s practice session. His No. 88 Chevrolet initially was tight, but adjustments in the final 20 minutes threw the car from too tight to too loose. Earnhardt finished the session 30th on the speed chart.
In winning the pole for Saturday’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Brickyard, Kyle Busch set two records the moment he crossed the finish line to complete his first lap in time trials.
First, Busch posted a lap at 179.644 mph, shattering the mark of 176.284 mph established by Kasey Kahne in last year’s inaugural NNS event at the 2.5-mile speedway.
Second, Busch became the all-time pole winner in the series with 31, breaking a tie with Mark Martin. Busch also is the career NASCAR Nationwide wins leader with 58.