Coming off his first win of the season last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson said today that he and his team have had little time to bask in the afterglow.
“The Monday-to-Friday routine was very comfortable and nice,” said Johnson of the week following his Coca-Cola 600 victory. “Everybody is smiling and has a spring in their step. But truthfully, when we get here and check in, last week seems so far away. When we get on the race track for practice and NASCAR’s timing and scoring goes hot again, it’s completely out of your mind and you (become) focused on the present.
While happy to have his first victory of the 2014 season, Johnson said there was considerable pressure to win; most of it originating inside the walls at Hendrick Motorsports.
“There has been a lot of pressure and expectation put on us, and a lot of things written about us and the long winless streak,” said Johnson. “But the pressure that people see and suspect might be wearing on us is nothing compared to the pressure we put on ourselves.
“We expect a lot out of ourselves,” he admitted. “We feel like wins have gotten away from us this year that we weren’t happy about. We also feel that there were tracks where we had poor performances. So the win is great, but we hold ourselves to (a high) standard.”
Johnson also admitted that there was a bit of friction within the No. 48 team this season, as their uncharacteristic winless streak grew larger.
|Johnson is Dover's all-time winner|
“It’s not fun to work so hard and be on the (slow) side of the board in practice or qualifying. That stuff just eats us up, because we work way too hard to be in that position. The sport isn’t easy. This garage area is so strong that it happens. And when it does, you’ve got to pull your boots up, get to work and work harder.”
He said the winless skein had begun to wear on him personally, as well, adding, ““I think a lot about the long winless streak being over. That’s been the common theme among friends and social media, so I’m just having fun with it and trying to remind myself that it’s a backhanded compliment. We have done so well as a team… that we put ourselves in this corner.
“I’m glad I don’t have to answer those questions any longer.”.
After becoming Dover’s the all-time winningest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver last fall, Johnson said he is happy to return to a track that has been so important to him and his career.
“(The records) definitely have a ton of meaning,” he said. “When I look at the people that I’m tying or have the opportunity to beat for those titles, it’s heroes of our sport and the guys that are in the Hall of Fame. When you look at their stats and what they’ve done for our sport, (they’re) household names.
“It is no small feat to tie or have the opportunity to beat these guys for races won at any track.
“We’re looking forward to winning again soon,” he said. “Over the years, we have been able to adapt to a variety of generations of car, and hopefully, we can adapt quickly to what is needed here and what the set-up needs to be to get around `The Monster’ once again.
“I’m looking forward to the race on Sunday.”