CONCORD - There was a time when Jimmie Johnson won so much at Lowe's Motor Speedway it seemed they named the place after him.
Well, they did. Sort of.
Lowe's, which sponsors Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, also sponsors what was formerly Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson's run of four consecutive victories and five of six from 2003-05 sparked numerous conspiracy theories among fans - the car sponsored by Lowe's winning at the track sponsored by the same company and all.
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His stats at the track are unrivaled.
In 16 Cup starts at LMS, he has five wins, eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He has completed 96.9 percent of the possible laps and led 1,242 of possible 5,580 (22.2 percent). He has an average start of 8.1 and average finish of 9.1.
"It's been a track I have always loved," Johnson said.
Still, he was won the past three series championships without the benefit of a victory at LMS, not finishing better than sixth during his past five races at the speedway.
"It has been a great relationship with the track and Lowe's and then all the victories we have had there have been really neat," said Johnson, who leads the points standings after a victory last weekend at California.
"The track, I really think since it was resurfaced, it just changed the dynamic of the race for us. I had some lines that worked really well. I think our set-up worked really well for the abrasive track.
"Rough tracks with bumps and things like that seem to work well for me with my background."
Even when LMS officials decided to smooth the track with a diamond-cutter in 2005, Johnson still ran well.
But the track was completely repaved for 2006 and since then Johnson has not visited Victory Lane, although he did finish second in both races that season.
"I really think the surface has a lot to do with it. It has made the track more forgiving than it was in the past and I think it helped close the gap," said Johnson, who will be going for his fourth pole at the track tonight when qualifying begins for Saturday's NASCAR Banking 500.
"I am hoping the track hurries up and ages and gets rough and bumpy and turns back in to the track it used to be."
That does not mean he and crew chief Chad Knaus have not tried to rekindle the magic.
"We work on stuff each time we go back. This time I think we'll be better yet," he said. "The last the few times we have been there, we have just been super tight and needed more front grip with the car.
"I think we are a little smarter even from the all-star (race) and the Coca-Cola 600 weekend. We're smarter now than we were then and hopefully it makes a difference."