Jimmie Johnson is just days from becoming the second driver in history to win three consecutive Cup championships.

His performance last month at Atlanta Motor Speedway went a long way toward helping him build his 141-point lead over Carl Edwards with one race to go.

After that stunning second-place run at Atlanta - when he made up nine positions in the final eight laps following a late-race caution - Johnson talked about the evolution of his relationship with crew chief Chad Knaus.

"We're still very, very similar to the way we were when we started in a lot of way," he said. "I think, from the beginning, Chad and I have been able to communicate well. We just kind of fit well together. Over time, it continues to amaze me how well he knows me.

"I guess, Saturday night (before the Atlanta race) I made a couple of general comments about the car, just in passing and talking about something. He called me a couple of hours later -- and just on some comments that I felt were insignificant. Talking about what the car was doing pulled him back to some different races during the course of the season and some changes we made to help the car.

"And the light came on in his brain and it pieced everything together, and so that Saturday night we felt very good about the changes we were making to the car. It made the car better.

"I think over time we've just gained more confidence in our gut feelings, with the car, with one another and those decisions. We've followed those gut feelings, and they've really turned out to be something.

"I'd rather him make the calls so that I can yell at him on Monday, rather than him yell at me. In most cases, he's got such a better perspective of what's going on, I try to keep my opinions relatively to myself. And in the past, too, I've made pit calls that have been wrong more times than right. In today's racing, in my opinion, you really need to be a computer for the crew chief and tell him what it's doing, not tell him how to fix it, because there's a lot more going on than a driver can sort out.

"Each year that goes by, and each time we deal with a high-pressure situation, it just builds more confidence, but we've had this ability for a long time. We just keep refining it. "

by Sporting News



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