Johnson looks to pick up pace at Charlotte

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Thursday, May 21 1414
After last Saturday's lackluster performance in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday still searching for speed.

Apparently, he found it.

In opening practice for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX), Johnson was second on the speed chart to Carl Edwards at the 1 1/2-mile track, posting a lap at 191.673 mph.

"Unfortunately, the showing we had in the All-Star race was less than stellar," Johnson said. "The confidence we would normally walk in with has been diluted with lack of speed that we had then. Brought back a different car and certainly trying to do things differently with the setup of the race car. I think the 600-mile race has always been good for us.

"(Crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and I seem to fix our race car as the night goes on, be aggressive with adjustments, chase the racetrack well, and I do a nice job searching for a line. The distance of the race doesn't bother me.

"I think we'll have a strong night, but we have a few things to sort out today and even into Saturday's practice sessions, based on what we learned and what we saw during the all-star race."

There's only one problem with practicing in the sunlight, which the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers did on Thursday. The Coca-Cola 600 concludes in the dead of night, and track conditions invariably are quite different.

Johnson found that out the hard way during the All-Star Race.

"The car had decent speed in practice in the sun," the six-time series champion said of his effort last weekend. "We got into the night and just couldn't get the car to turn. ... All this day practice does not help build confidence in a night race.

"We thought we were good in the day last weekend, went to night and didn't have what we needed. This track is tricky. It's tough to get it right. Luckily, it's a long race, and if need be, in the race we will make big changes."