Jimmie Johnson looks for more consistent season with clean mindBy Ashley McCubbin
A couple years ago, it was all about the streak and continuing to win championships. Questions were surrounding as to whether Jimmie Johnson could continue to win championships,win six in a row, seven in a row.
“I feel like through those five years, there was some pressure on me that I didn’t know existed till the streak ended,” he said.
However, the 2011 season didn’t play into Johnson’s hands as he would finish sixth in points, ending the streak at five. For Johnson, it was like cleaning off the sheet of paper. Though, the pressure was still there. Instead of wondering if the streak would continue, the pressure was there to bounce back and return to the championship form.
“We did everything we could last year,” Johnson said as his team came close, finishing third in points to Brad Keselowski. However, in their mind, they did what they could. They won the most poles with four, won the most races with five while scoring 18 top fives and 24 top 10s. Even with the success, they lost and they know why – the six DNFs they had, including two engine failures.
“I think we have to fix those pieces and finish the races,” he said. “You can’t not finish races in the Chase.”
Though even with falling short of the championship and the DNFs from last year, Johnson feels he is more mentally prepared for this year than any year in the past.
“I have been excited other years, but this year it’s different,” he said. “I have a clean mind. I’m not worried about anything. I’m carrying no baggage. No pressure. “
Part of that could be due to the excitement surrounding the new car as Johnson has been solid in testing, posting the fifth fastest speed during the Charlotte test. For Johnson, he says that the aero balance is more forgiving, which will lead to better racing.
“I think that is NASCAR’s intent to be able to run side-by-side and be more aggressive on restarts,” he said. “With the added downforce, you may want to take a chance and get side-by-side with someone. The car is more comfortable with the downforce, the speed is up. “
While Johnson looks to go after the fourth championship, he will make his 400th career start at Daytona in the Daytona 500.
“Time flies, bottom line,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like 400 starts, but that’s the case. Can’t thank Hendrick Motorsports enough for the opportunity. All of those starts were with Hendrick, Chevrolet, with Lowe’s. Can’t thank everybody enough for the relationships. Hope to have another 400 more.”