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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 17, 2013 4:28 pm

Johnson not comfortable with big Cup points lead

By STEVE REEDAP Sports Writer

Jimmie Johnson is lapping the field.

Just three months into the season, Johnson has built a 44-point lead over second place Carl Edwards and is positioning himself for a run at a sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Matt Kenseth is in third place, 59 points back of Johnson.

"I'm very happy to have this big points lead and would love to lock early as you can imagine," Johnson said. "But I don't know if I'm just making this up for my own good and helping my cause, but I'm glad I'm not peaking-out."

Still, Johnson said there's room for improvement, most notably on the 1.5-mile tracks.

"We're not bad. We're still getting good finishes," Johnson said. "But we don't have that magic right now."

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Johnson's first All-Star win, which began a remarkable run of success at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He won seven of the nine races at CMS beginning in 2003, including three Coca-Cola 600s and another All-Star win in 2006.

If Johnson wins Saturday night, he'll become the first to win four Sprint All-Star races. Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt are the only drivers to win the All-Star race three times.

"I'm pumped," Johnson said of returning to CMS. "I'm happy to be home. Happy to have the support from Sprint they have done such an amazing job of supporting our racing series. To have this weekend and all that goes on with our All-Star event it's just really cool. I'm thankful for what they do for me and all of us in this room and all of us in the sport. It's going to be a cool night."

Saturday night's All-Star race winner pockets $1 million. Track owner Bruton Smith offered an additional $1 million "big bonus" if a driver can win all four segments and the final 10-lap shootout.

"They put an extra million bucks up," Johnson said. "We will see if somebody can ring that bell. The format has changed. We will see how that plays out. Clearly you want to start as close as you can to the front in that final segment and have a shot at winning. We will all be trying real hard through each and every segment to get that done. If I am the lucky one to win and fortunate one to win, I will be very happy to beat two guys that I have idolized by whole career - Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. - on wins in this particular event. We will see what happens."