NASCAR National Weekend Preview: Jimmie Johnson Goes For Jackpot In Las Vegas

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Reports ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

After clinching a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth with his win at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Sunday, one might surmise Jimmie Johnson could race stress free until the opener of NASCAR’s playoffs at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20.

Think again.

Johnson has a huge weight on his shoulders this weekend as he tries to pilot his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet to victory in his sponsor’s race – Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

“Driving the Kobalt car for the Kobalt 400 adds some pressure and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and I really don’t like to see someone else in Victory Lane with our sponsor,” Johnson said. “We have an incredible partnership and I’d love to win it for them this weekend. It would be really special.”

Johnson, who finished a career-worst 11th in the final Sprint Cup points standings last year, has jumped out to a quick start, finishing fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500 before his Atlanta triumph.

His early success likely won’t slow at Las Vegas, where he boasts a track-record four victories.

The six-time premier series champion hasn’t won at the 1.5-mile tri-oval since 2010, but claims a high finish of second and no showing worse than sixth in his last three starts in Sin City.

“I’m certainly excited about going to Las Vegas,” he said. “The track itself is tough and we haven’t had a whole lot of success there lately, but I would really like to bring home that cool Kobalt trophy for my sponsor.”

The man that would love to ruin Johnson’s day is defending race winner Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, will try to celebrate his 200th career start by taking his No. 2 Ford first to the checkered.

“The last time we were at Las Vegas, our Miller Lite Ford Performance Fusion and Discount Tire Ford Mustang swept the weekend,” Keselowski said. “I’d love to do that again, but since we are only running the (Sprint) Cup race we’ll have to do our best to make the most of that one. It is always fun coming out to Las Vegas – the track is great and we draw a great crowd too.”

Dillon Primed For Championship Run

Ty Dillon knows what it’s like to be close to a NASCAR national series championship.

He doesn’t know how it feels to win one.

In his first three full-time seasons – the initial two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2012-13) and the last in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (2014) – Dillon finished fourth, second and fifth, respectively, in the final points standings.

The 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series season is a mere two races young, but Dillon finds himself tied with Chris Buescher atop the standings following two third-place finishes to begin his second campaign in NASCAR’s series where names are made.

“We have all the momentum on our side and it’s obviously a fantastic way to start the season,” Dillon said. “Our theme this season is to believe in ourselves. We have all the tools to be a championship team and these past two races have been an example of how we want this season to go.”

The 23 year old will attempt to keep the momentum going in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). The Richard Childress Racing driver won the Coors Light Pole Award at last year’s race in the Entertainment Capital of the World before finishing 11th.

“Overall, (our strong start) gives us a boost on the competition, but we’re definitely not going to sit back and relax,” Dillon said. “We’re full-steam ahead and hope to turn third-place finishes into wins.”

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