Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is winless in the first four races of the 2014 season. And while he admitted today that being winless is not necessarily the recipe for success under NASCAR’s new Chase qualification system, Johnson said there is no need to panic.
“It’s not even close to time,” he said. “When you look at the stats… six different winners in a year (is) a pretty rare occurrence. I still think that points are every bit as important as they have been, until you get to Homestead. Even when you get into the Chase, the top guy in points will advance in pretty much every scenario, even to race (for the championship) at Homestead. Points are still the focus.
Despite added incentives for visiting Victory Lane in 2014, Johnson said he and crew chief Chad Knaus are not about to jettison their tried-and-true approach to winning championships.
“We have been able to win multiple races a year with a certain mindset,” he said. “I am not going to chase home runs. I’m looking at a smooth and consistent 26 races and when we get a (chance) at a home run, we are going to swing for it. But we are not stepping up to the plate every time trying to hit it out.”
Asked about his chances to “go long” this weekend, Johnson said Auto Club Speedway has traditionally been a strong point for him and his team.
“I think our team has done well on kind of low grip level race tracks,” said Johnson, who has five wins and 12 Top-5 finishes in 19 career starts at Auto Club Speedway. “This track is in that category and… has usually been good for us. Hopefully, we’ve got that magic once again.
“The character in the track continues to change. Last year especially, the bumps were as big as I’ve ever seen them. The paving seams are very sensitive to run your right-side tires on. I think those challenging elements are good for the No. 48.”
“It would be great to get a win and get ourselves locked in to the Chase,” said Johnson, “but I think we are in a good spot. We’ve been very competitive. We have had a shot to win a couple of races. All in all, things are going well and we will hopefully get a win before long.”