News & Media

Mr. Five-Time seeks second Prelude title

June 05, 2012, Jimmie Johnson, Special to NASCAR.COM,

There are always a few dates circled on my calendar at the beginning of each year. My anniversary, the birthdays of my daughter and wife and the Jimmie Johnson Foundation events are among the ones I look forward to the most. When it comes to my racing schedule -- one that's always circled is the Prelude!

I've been going to the Prelude since 2008 and each year I've thoroughly enjoyed myself. Tony [Stewart] does such an exceptional job each year making sure that we drivers have a great time. The atmosphere of Eldora Speedway is a special place. For those that have never been, it truly sits in the cornfields of western Ohio. We fly into a remote air strip about 20 minutes from the track and Tony and the Eldora staff take care of us from there. Clint Bowyer is my team owner, which is always a good time. He and I usually stay afterward and hang out with Tony and the guys, although I may have an earlier curfew this year because we need to be back at Pocono to test the Cup cars the next morning.

Looking back at 2010, we had an awesome night. I never expected to win a Prelude championship. This event has always been about raising money for a great cause each year. But in 2010 I was able to win my heat race and start up front for the feature. Kyle [Busch] kept diving into the corners, but the high groove I was running was best and I was able to hold him off. It was a good night for my team owner because he actually finished second after passing Kyle on a late restart.

* Video: Relive Johnson's 2010 victory | Johnson recalls win

Last year, we didn't quite have the finish we wanted. I think it was me, because the cars Clint and his team provide are always awesome. He won so that means I'll have to take the blame for my mediocre finish. This year, I need to make sure I qualify well and have a good run in my heat race to get a great starting position in the feature. If I can start the race in the top five or six, I think my team will have a decent shot to win a second title.

These dirt-track races are so short (Editor's note: The 2012 event will be 10 laps longer -- 40 total laps) that a great starting spot is key to having a shot to win. Tony told me last week that they'll be adding double-file restarts to the event this year which should make things interesting on the green-flag starts. I would expect a handful of cars limping to the pits early. It's going to be a great race and I highly recommend you check out the Prelude next Wednesday. When the dirt settles, hopefully you'll see the 48 in Victory Lane for the second time in three years!

Prelude to the Dream begins at 8 p.m. ET June 6 and is available on HBO Pay-Per-View. It can be ordered at or Updates can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @PreludeToDream.