Defending champion's win marks 150th victory for Hendrick Motorsports

Defending NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson won his third consecutive UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by a comfortable margin of 2.795 sec. before a sun-drenched sellout crowd.

Perhaps comfortable is not the right word to use when race teams were thrown for a loop after testing here on the new, higher-banked track in January. After the teams tested here and took home data to analyze, Goodyear switched the prescribed tore to a harder compound and NASCAR mandated a smaller fuel cell to force teams to make more pits stops and give them the opportunity to change tires more frequently.
When teams arrived this week to practice, qualify and race, there was much concern because their setups had pretty much been thrown out the window. While most crew chiefs would have preferred to spend some fun time in Las Vegas after the garages closed, they struggled to regroup and make important chassis setup decisions instead.

"When you go home and work on your data and try to sort everything out and then it all changes, it really complicates things," said Johnson. You don't know what to do. You don't have any data and it's really trial and error. When you have a short amount of practice time like we do on race weekends, it really ramps up the frustration.

"One thing I am very confident and proud of is the 48 team and Hendrick Motorsports in general - we seem to figure things out on a fast pace. We might not be the first or the fastest with certain rules changes or new tracks. We smile and say, ‘All right, this is a chance for us to really step up and figure something out.' I think we were able to do that this weekend with the new tire. Coming back, nobody had any data to work with. It was really between Chad and I to talk through the issues of the car and the sensations I was having. We do a good job with that. That's one strength of our team and this weekend allowed our strength to show.

Johnson not only had to contend with 42 other drivers, he had to overcome two setbacks as well.
"I had a tire roll away on a pit stop and that caused us some trouble," said Johnson. "Then I hit the wall a little in Turn 4 and bent up the suspension a little bit. I saw Jeff Burton up on the top in Turns 3 and 4 and he was really making some ground. I was able to find the right rhythm up there. I tried to get a little bit more aggressive and made a late exit and the car lost control and started sliding on me and I didn't have a lot of room left and got into the wall a little bit off Turn 4.

"Over the long haul, I don't think I had the speed to run with Jeff (Gordon) or (Jeff) Burton, but at the end, when I came in, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) put right-side tires on. We had a tire pressure adjustment that really brought comfort back to the car. I had that edge I could lean on and really push to get by Gordon and get by Burton. It was a great day for us. I am very proud of the race team - to overcome the adversity this week to come back with a new tire and not have any experience on it. The team worked through all the issues we had to work through to get the car right."