|Jimmie Johnson gaining ground quickly|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 11 March 2012 15:35|
He's done just that and now has to do something race car drivers don't like much: wait.
Johnson finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, unable to catch winner Tony Stewart on four restarts over the final 34 laps.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion has made a nice recovery after his problems in Daytona, but the big news could come on Tuesday, when NASCAR is expected to rule on Hendrick Motorsports' appeal of suspensions and penalties against the team.
``We worked so hard over the offseason on our cars to put speed in our cars, make them comfortable and consistent so I can get in there and not be on edge driving it,'' Johnson said. ``We've achieved that goal.''
Johnson had a rough start this year after having his worst season in NASCAR in 2011. His car failed inspection on the first day of Speedweeks at Daytona and he was involved in a wreck the second lap of the Daytona 500.
Two days after the race, Johnson was penalized 25 points, and his crew chief Chad Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended six races, along with car chief Ron Malec.
Knaus and Malec have been able to work the past two races during the appeal and the No. 48 car has been strong, picking up a fourth-place finish last week at Phoenix.
Johnson did well in what may be his last race with the two chiefs for a while, leading 35 laps in the middle of the race after starting from the back following a crash in practice. He came up just short because Stewart was too good on the restarts, but has moved up to 23rd in points, 64 behind leader Greg Biffle.
Johnson could move up even more if NASCAR decides to reduce or take away the 25-point penalty.
ADDINGTON WINS: Steve Addington didn't think he'd feel pressure after becoming Tony Stewart's crew chief. He had been at Penske Racing, where there was pressure every week, so he figured it would be no different with the defending Sprint Cup champion.
It was a lot tougher than he thought it would be.
``It's a big relief to know that you're the difference in the race team right now,'' Addington said after his first win with Stewart at Las Vegas. ``Everybody's been awesome. There was no one putting the pressure on me but myself. I really didn't realize how much I put on myself going to work with a championship team the very next year.''
Stewart had been criticized for switching crew chiefs after winning a title and it seemed to grow after a difficult start to the season.
Stewart finished 16th at the Daytona 500 and dropped to 22nd last week at Phoenix when he couldn't re-fire his car after turning it off to save fuel in the closing laps.
``It was a tough decision to (split) with Darian, but we told Steve from Day 1 that it was an awesome scenario leaving with the championship last season,'' Stewart said. ``I guess it's easy to not feel that pressure from our side of it and Steve puts the pressure on himself. We told him from Day 1 that we're going to go have fun and we're going to race hard and take what it gives us.''
PROPER RESPECT: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a disappointing finish after leading more laps in one race than he did in all of 2011.
What had him particularly riled up was what he believed to be a lack of respect he was shown by Mark Martin while trying to pass him.
``To me, there's an unwritten etiquette that when the guy is running the top even if you are clearing or passing him ... I'm coming 10 mph faster off the top of the race track, you stay low,'' he said. ``Don't knock a half second off my lap time being a jerk about it. Stay low. You are going to get it in the next corner and the position is going to be yours.''
Earnhardt finished 10th after leading 70 laps early in the race - 18 more than he did in 2011.
PIT STOPS: Rookie Timmy Hill hit the wall on lap 45 in his Sprint Cup debut. He finished 42nd. ... Polesitter Kasey Kahne dropped back quickly at the start of the race and struggled most of the day to finish 19th. ... Regan Smith was among four drivers to start at the back because of an equipment change. He never made the ground all the way up and finished 15th after swapping transmissions before the race. Johnson finished second, Kyle Busch was 23rd and Juan Pablo Montoya was 25th after starting from the back.