John­son ad­mir­ing the view at the top of the moun­tain

The Covington News - - News -

HAMP­TON — It’s said things hap­pen in threes. For NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Jim­mie John­son, that’s a good thing. John­son is poised to win his third straight Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship. With a 149- point lead, he rolls into to­day’s race at At­lanta Mo­tor Speed­way in the driver’s seat. Af­ter a slow, but steady rain soaked the track dur­ing the first half of Fri­day, NASCAR worked fever­ishly to dry the track and give the teams some much needed prac­tice time. De­spite its ef­forts, cars hit the track for a mean­ing­less eight min­utes be­fore a thick mist forced of­fi­cials to throw the red flag. NASCAR can­celled qual­i­fy­ing for the third con­sec­u­tive week due to rain and John­son again gets the first pit stall and will lead the driv­ers to the green flag on the pole. “They [NASCAR] spent a lot of time work­ing on the track but this mois­ture this evening threw ev­ery­thing for a loop,” John­son said. “ The two laps that I made, there was so much wa­ter on the wind­shield, it wasn’t rain­ing, but it was so thick out there that we had to stop.” John­son was of mixed feel­ings about earn­ing the pole yet again through a rain­out but he stopped short feel­ing bad for his com­peti­tors and said he is glad to be up front. “ When you start up front at a big track like this, and the air is so im­por­tant th­ese days, track po­si­tion re­ally is ev­ery­thing,” John­son said. “ It’s much eas­ier to stay in the top- 5 than it is to start 15th and find your way into the top- 5.” John­son has taken ad­van­tage of the re­cent string of in­clement weather. At Lowe’s Mo­tor Speed­way, he fin­ished sixth and led the most laps. Last week at Martinsville, John­son dom­i­nated, lead­ing a race- high 339 laps en route to his sec­ond win of the Chase and sixth over­all this sea- son. In those two races alone, he’s ex­tended his point lead from 72 over then sec­ond place Carl Ed­wards to its cur­rent 149- point gap over Greg Bif­fle. John­son’s lead is the largest any driver has had en­ter­ing At­lanta dur­ing the Chase era. His Hen­drick team­mate Jeff Gor­don en­joyed a 96- point lead over even­tual champ Kurt Busch in 2004. Since then, no driver has had a lead larger than 53 points. Con­sid­er­ing the way John­son has fin­ished the pre­vi­ous two years, all signs point to an­other cham­pi­onship. In 2006, he sat third, 41 points

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