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MOTOR RACING NOTES

Johnson started confident

December 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

Jimmie Johnson was far from a household name when he signed on with Hendrick Motorsports and sponsor Lowe's in 2001. But he was pretty sure that would change someday.

"I was at a Lowe's store in Mooresville (N.C.) after signing my contract and was standing and talking with an employee who was selling washing machines and appliances," Johnson said, thinking back during a quiet moment last week in New York for the annual NASCAR awards dinner.

After being introduced to the man as the new driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet, he said, "I've never heard of you."

Johnson replied: "You will."

Five years later, with 23 race wins, five top-five finishes in the points and the 2006 Nextel Cup title, Johnson laughs when he tells that story.

"I knew that with the team I was joining and the backing of a major sponsor like Lowe's that I was going to have a chance to do some great things," Johnson said. "Maybe I was a little bit cocky, but it's worked out OK."

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Joe Gibbs Racing has signed 18-year-old Brad Coleman to share a NASCAR Busch Series car in 2007 with two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and second-year driver Aric Amirola.

Coleman, scheduled to drive 17 of 35 Busch races next year, got the attention of JGR president J.D. Gibbs this season in the ARCA stock car series, finishing in the top five in eight of nine starts. That included a win in July at Kentucky Speedway, where he held off eight-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel at the finish. JGR vice president of Busch operations Steve deSouza said the team is excited about signing Coleman.

"We have watched Brad race all year and have been very impressed with the way he has driven and handled himself in a variety of situations," deSouza said. "He is not only smooth and precise on the track, but he is equally good in the way he handles media and sponsor relations off the track."

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