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Johnson has a tough road ahead

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Associated Press / August 10, 2008

After a slow start in his quest to win a third straight Sprint Cup title, Jimmie Johnson is coming up to speed as the Chase for the Championship looms. Now, if he could only master a road course.

"When I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, this is my challenge," Johnson said Friday before rain canceled qualifying for today's Centurion Boats at The Glen. "I want to win on a road course, and it's the last chance I have this year to do it."

Johnson entered the weekend with two shots at Watkins Glen, N.Y. - today's Sprint Cup race and yesterday's Nationwide Series Zippo 200, in which he finished 29th. It was Johnson's second Nationwide start of the year.

"I just want more laps to get in the rhythm of road course racing. I seem to have the pace for a handful of laps doing the right thing," said Johnson, who has three top-fives at The Glen. "I keep searching for it. I can't find that half a tenth [of a second]. I just need more seat time."

Johnson qualified second on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., in June, led 27 laps, but finished 15th. His best finish on the two road courses the Cup series visits each year was a third at Watkins Glen in 2007.

Because qualifying was canceled, today's field was set by points, which puts Johnson fourth behind series leader Kyle Busch, on the outside of the second row.

Nationwide - Marcos Ambrose took advantage of a fortuitous pit stop midway through the Zippo 200 and easily beat Busch for his first NASCAR victory.

Ambrose, from Tasmania, was in the pits on Lap 42 when the fourth caution of the 82-lap race flew. He gained the lead on Lap 48, but gave it up right away to pit for fuel.

Ambrose slowly worked his way up to third with 12 laps to go as Jeff Burton and Johnson battled for the lead. But the two leaders ran out of fuel with three laps remaining and Ambrose coasted to the victory in the No. 59 Ford.

IRL - Scott Dixon came from behind at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, passing Helio Castroneves coming off the final turn on the 1.5-mile oval to win the Meijer Indy 300.

It was the second win in a row and the sixth victory of the season for Dixon, tying the record of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon.

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