Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Jimmie Johnson hoping to rebound with repeat of past Darlington success

After a poor result last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson is hoping that his past success at Darlington Raceway repeats itself in the form of a victory.

“I’m excited to be back at the race track, a track that is a favorite of so many; including myself,” Johnson commented. “The sensation of speed here is higher than any other track we go to. And the line and racing surface is so narrow and unique and challenging, that it really is an accomplishment to run 500 miles here; to be successful and qualify well and have a good race, and then ultimately to win. So, I’m very excited to be back and I’m looking forward to a good race.”

Johnson finished 25th at Texas Motor Speedway after receiving damage from Earnhardt Jr.’s trip through the infield grass. Though before that, Johnson had himself in position to win at Fontana and Martinsville before coming up short. He also felt that he had a race winning car at Texas if not for those problems. Johnson says while it hurts to have these opportunities slip away, it’s a confidence booster in knowing the equipment is possible of winning.

“You have all the pieces there and it’s just about running the distance of the race and getting the job done,” Johnson said. “So, I’ve been through various challenges in my Cup career and one marker I always look for is clearly fast cars and ultimately top five finishes. And I firmly believe that if you’re running in the top five, you’re going to have your shots at winning races. And even a step further, top three’s. But our goal, since I’ve started, has been if we can run in the top 5 all day long, we’ll have a shot to win the race. And it’s led to a lot of victories for us.”

There are some drivers that would get frustrated and those frustrations would build into more problems. Johnson says that he’s learned over hte years in how to deal it, and was exactly more frustrated the first couple races this year when they weren’t really fast.

“Those were things that we could control. So, practice sessions at Phoenix and Las Vegas, that’s where we felt like we were off and missing something,” Johnson commented. “But we’re giving 100 percent and that’s really all you can do. We’ve learned through experience to identify with that. You can only work so many hours in the day and then in the week, and only give 100 percent. Anything more is only going to be detrimental to the team and not help things progress.”

By staying focused, the No. 48 Lowe’s team has improved as the year has gone on and been competitive. Though there’s still room for improvement – such as qualifying. Johnson notes that both he and crew chief Chad Knuas know that improvement in getting that quick lap out of the car and doing so over the multiple rounds of qualifying would benefit them.

“Fridays are a big focus for us and I don’t think going fast for a lap is the 48’s specialty,” Johnson noted. “It could just fall in my lap, team, setups, whatever it is; it’s just kind of the team’s history here at the 48.  It’s something that we have worked hard to improve.  

“If we had started on the front row, we wouldn’t have been in harm’s way and we have seen that a few times.  I think it was Texas in ’09 or something where Sam (Hornish) spun and we got caught up in that.  There are some rare situations where there is a problem early and if we had qualified a few spots better, then we would have been ahead of it.”

Johnson’s qualifying struggles showed their hand as on Friday at Darlington, Johnson qualified his Chevrolet in the 26th spot. Though don’t let that fool you in thinking he won’t have a shot as Johnson has three wins, eight top-fives and 11 top-10s in 15 starts on the egg-shaped oval.

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