- Cape student sues, accuses school officials of slamming her to ground multiple times (04/28/16)46
- Neelys Landing man shot, killed by highway patrol trooper after traffic stop (05/01/16)42
- Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau among chain's 21 closings (04/26/16)9
- Missouri House votes to allow concealed weapons without permits (04/28/16)8
- Police report filed, but no charges in incident at Cape Central (04/29/16)40
- Two hurt in motorcycle wreck on Interstate 55 (04/25/16)1
- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
- Senator introduces bill for I-57 that would connect Sikeston with Little Rock (04/28/16)4
- Law firm requests information about Cape's traffic cameras (04/25/16)3
- Local lawmakers split over failed medical marijuana bill; voters may have a say (04/26/16)19
Johnson takes flight with a super hero-style streak
CONCORD, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson called it his "Captain America" firesuit -- the special red, white and blue uniform he donned in an impressive two-race sweep.
The outfit didn't really make him invincible, but it seemed that way after Johnson became only the fifth driver in history to sweep the May races at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"I hope this suit isn't the reason I won ... if it is, I'm going to get a cape and some cool glasses to fit the part a little better," Johnson said. "If we go to Dover and don't run well, I will be wearing this suit the rest of the year, I guess."
Johnson wore the special firesuit for sponsor Lowe's and their "Power of Pride" campaign. He took a good amount of ribbing from his fellow competitors about it, but didn't care after pocketing more than $1.3 million in a span of eight days.
By winning The Winston and the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600, Johnson joined Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Davey Allison and Jeff Gordon -- his friend, boss, teammate and mentor -- as the only drivers to pull off the sweep.
"Those guys are my heroes. When I was a kid in California, that's who I was rooting for," Johnson said. "So to be able to do this is amazing. You just don't know what's going to happen, you just don't know what's in store for you in your career and when the good days or bad days are going to happen."
For the first part of the season, race days seemed to be bad days for Johnson.
Oh, the No. 48 Chevrolet was still as strong as it was last year, when Johnson tied Tony Stewart's record of three wins in a rookie season. But when it came to finishing races, something seemed to happen in the waning laps to cost Johnson a decent finish.
Rain kept him from challenging for the win in the Daytona 500, he wrecked with Sterling Marlin on the final lap in Las Vegas, and he spun out on the last lap at Talladega.
And he was running strong in California, where he scored his first victory last season, but hit the wall on the last lap and wound up limping across the finish line in 16th.
So he headed to Lowe's Motor Speedway -- considered his home track because of the sponsor situation -- looking to change his luck. It worked with a dominating two weeks and two victories that lifted him to fifth in the Winston Cup points standings.
"This month, we've been on fire," he said. "We've been close to winning all year long. But whatever that momentum is that we needed, we've got it back and we're on track."
He got it just in time to head to Dover, Del., where Johnson swept both races last season. He goes into the race armed with a new five-year deal for himself and crew chief Chad Knaus, plus a new five-year commitment from Lowe's to be the primary sponsor of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
The victories at Lowe's have the team's confidence soaring, even though Johnson said they were never really down.
"We were never skeptical of our abilities," Johnson said. "Maybe if we'd been running 30th each week and had some problems, that would be one thing. But we were up front each week running well, leading laps.
"So it never sunk into our heads that we had lost something or we're not going to have a good year or we're not going to be able to win."
The team never fell out of the top 10 in points -- Johnson has been in the top 10 for 45 consecutive weeks. Now Johnson hopes to get back to the top, where he was last year when he became the first rookie in NASCAR history to lead the points.
His stay there was brief -- just one week because a freak incident with Mark Martin on the pace lap at Talladega damaged his car and sent him to a poor finish that day that cost him the points lead.
Johnson didn't gain any ground on leader Matt Kenseth last weekend -- Kenseth finished second and widened his lead in the standings. He's got a 160-point lead over second place Dale Earnhardt Jr., and leads Johnson by 247.
But Johnson said he learned last year that the pressure is on the points leader, not the drivers chasing him. He thinks Kenseth has done a good job of tuning it out, but doesn't know how long it will last.
"One thing I've got to give credit to the whole No. 17 (Kenseth) team, they don't seem like they're paying any attention to the points and it's way too early to do that yet," Johnson said. "As the year wears on, that's going to be the challenge for whomever is leading the points -- to try and stay aggressive and not let the competition catch you and get an advantage on you."