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August 18, 2013

Another ominous start for Johnson at Michigan

Hendrick driver is winless in 23 Sprint Cup starts at track.

(Continued)

Earlier this year, Johnson smacked the wall in the final laps at Michigan. He was trying to chase down eventual winner Greg Biffle, but a tire gave way and he dropped all the way to 28th.

“We’ve been so close that it certainly enters my mind at that point,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked real hard on my driving style to get better fuel mileage here. It seems like we’ve covered that gap, but we’ve had a mechanical or two. We blew a tire this last spring when we were here. So, there have been a lot of reasons why, but I really look forward to the day I’m able to pull into Victory Lane over here.”

Chicagoland, Homestead, Watkins Glen and Kentucky are the other tracks on this year’s series schedule where Johnson hasn’t won a Cup race — and he has no more than a dozen starts at any of those other venues.

MIS repaved its track before its 2012 Cup races, and speeds have soared. Joey Logano qualified first Friday at 203.949 mph, the ninth-fastest speed by a pole winner in NASCAR history.

“You’ve got to maintain track position,” Johnson said. “I think the secret to winning here really falls into the hands of the engineer and the crew chief in what decisions they make late in the race to maintain track position. I think that’s where the key is. For the driver, when you’re out there practicing, you’re going so fast around here and you’re usually running by yourself, that it’s easy to set the car up to run in clean air. And you don’t always get that luxury.”

Saturday’s crash added some adversity. Afterward, Johnson still wasn’t sure why his car spun out of control.

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