Desperate Jimmie Johnson comes up short

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Jimmie Johnson had a wild ride qualifying for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

The five-time champion got so lost in Turns 1 and 2 that he nearly put his car into the wall. He wound up straightening out along the back stretch but it cost him plenty of momentum, and he wound up qualifying 15th for the STP 400.

“Yeah, my commitment level was a little higher than my grip level in 1 and 2 that first time through,” said Johnson, a two-time winner at Kansas. “I just want to get a pole bad, and I know we have the race car that’s capable of it.”

Johnson has struggled to qualify the past few weeks.

He started 22nd at Bristol, was 10th at Fontana, and 22nd at Martinsville.

He was 10th last week at Texas and led much of the race, ultimately getting passed by Greg Biffle with 30 laps remaining and finishing second.

“I think going as fast as we did on our second lap showed the type of car we had,” said Johnson, who has just one win in his past 35 races and six second-place finishes, dating back to last April.

“Just coming out cold turkey, I went in there over 100 percent. I know now. I wish I had known that before I turned off into Turn 1. But it was just an awful 1 and 2 and I got an OK lap.”

• Johnson’s No. 48 will be dressed in pewter-like green today, the first in a series of new color combinations to pay tribute to American muscle cars.

The color is technically called “Mountain Green,” and was one of General Motors’ classic color combinations from 1967, appearing on every model of passenger car except the Corvette.

Johnson’s team chose the greenish color to coincide with Earth Day, which is today.

SMOOTHING THE SURFACE: The decision to repave Kansas Speedway this summer has received mixed reactions from drivers concerned that it will lose some of its character.

The repaving of the track will begin immediately after the summer race, and there will be a slight reconfiguring to create variable banking in the corners.

JIMMIE GOES GREEN: "When we were researching colors, it just made sense that we used green for this weekend,” said David Sutphin, who manages sports marketing for primary sponsor Lowe’s.

“I know we have some muscle car fans out there,” said Johnson, who owns a 1968 Camaro. “I’m sure there are quite a few people who still have this color car. I think it’s a cool way for us to connect with those fans.”

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