Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson, has been relatively quiet in the first three races of the 2014 season after being an unstoppable force in 2013 claiming six victories, sixteen top-5’s, twenty-four top 10’s, and the championship.
So far this season Johnson has only led forty-nine laps and posted one top-5 finish two weeks ago at Phoenix International Raceway, where he finished fifth.
When asked if he is experiencing any anxiety by not being in the 2014 winner’s group yet, Johnson responded, “No, I haven’t put much thought into it. The main reason is 16 transfers and it’s pretty rare that we have 16 different winners in the course of a season. So points still have a pretty big impact on where you are at. I’m happy that we are third in points. I feel like at Vegas we had a shot to win.”
Driving the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet this weekend at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, Johnson spoke with media members on Friday about his outlook on coming to Bristol Motor Speedway. “ I just want to survive this place. We did get our win in 2010 and we have been able to run consistently in the top five. That is truthfully our goal. This track really is difficult on me and Chad (Knaus) and the team through practice and qualifying. Then in the race we seem to find our way. A lot of that falls on my shoulders. I feel like this track is for me it just takes the repetition of laps to find a rhythm and to find the half a tenth or so that I need to really be in the game. We will try to keep aggravation and frustration to a minimum today, tomorrow and then whenever we race. I know that we will be able to get out there and run well.”
After NASCAR announced changes to the qualifying process on Tuesday, Johnson was asked if he was happy to see the qualifying changes, and if he expects today’s session to look markedly different than it has the last few weeks. He responded, “Yeah for sure. We have had two very forgiving race tracks with generous aprons to cool down on and we still had some close calls. Here you can’t get on the apron to get out of the way. I guess you can, but it’s a lot more difficult. So I’m very happy with the changes and I think we will see a much cleaner, fair opportunity to get your fast laps in.”
With frustrations and tempers typically flying high at the high banked half-mile oval, Johnson commented on someone that got him that he never got the opportunity for revenge. He said, “The first one that comes to mind and I actually tried was with Matt Kenseth. I guess it was one of my full years in Nationwide and he had crashed me two or three times and he had a bad pit stop in Dover and came out deep in the field. I was running eighth to tenth or something and he wrecked me in turns one and two. I was sitting on the apron waiting for him to come back around and I had the car in gear ready to dump the clutch to harpoon him. When I dumped the clutch to take off the fuel cell was on the ground and my rear tires were up off the ground and I couldn’t go anywhere. I was all over the rev chip going nowhere. I have teased him about it since and I think even mentioned it in the media once. Matt does not remember that think, but I do. But we are well past that now. There is no revenge there, but it’s fun to harass him about it.”
Keeping frustrations in check, adapting to new qualifying procedures, and looking for his first win of the 2014 NASCAR Spring Cup Series Season, Johnson has a big weekend ahead at Bristol Motor Speedway.