Despite being held winless through the first 10 races of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Jimmie Johnson said he and his Lowes Chevrolet team are not reaching for the panic button.
“Until we are not locked in (to the Chase), there is nothing to worry about,” said Johnson today at Kansas Speedway. “Where we sit in points right now, we are locked in. Of course we want to win. We want to win every race we go to. We have been in the ballpark and have been very close to victory a couple of times and it got away.
“Yes, there have been some poor performances (and) we are trying to raise that,” he said. “I don’t think we are where we want to be as a team right now, but we have had a few looks at wins and I know we will get a few more. We just need to capitalize on that.
Despite a Chase format that placed an increased emphasis on winning. Johnson insisted that the game has not changed.
“Points still matter,” he said. “There is a bigger window to make the Chase today than there was last year. Last year was 12 (qualifiers), this year it’s 16. I don’t think there is anything to stress out about yet.”
Johnson said he and his team are determined to improve their on-track performance, which includes four finishes outside the Top-20, and acknowledged some testiness in his on-track communication with crew chief Chad Knaus in recent weeks
“Chad doesn’t have an outbound filter,” said Johnson. “When he hits the button, or when he speaks, there is nothing slowing down his honest opinion. (After) 13 years of working with him, it’s family. That stuff doesn’t bother me. Chad isn’t happy unless we are winning races.
“Everything is there,” he insisted. “We just need to own this new rules package and find the No. 48 set-up in it. That is what we are searching for. Some tracks we have been close, others not so much. But our drive to compete… hasn’t changed one bit. We are still as hungry as we have ever been.”
Johnson also said it is difficult to meet the high expectations set by fans and fellow competitors for a six-time championship-winning team.
“Successful teams can sometimes be their own worst enemy with expectations that are set in respect,” he said. “We have been through dry spells before. A 10-12 race dry spell isn’t a very long one. If we didn’t have any looks at wins this year, I would have a much different opinion. I still feel that we are extremely competitive and I feel I’m a better race car driver today than I was last year. I keep learning more and experiencing more and add that to my repertoire of things to do.
“I know we will win our fair share of races. We will make Chases and certainly be a threat for championships. Our team is as strong as it has ever been.”