Johnson feels no pressure about recent lack of wins

1 Comment

After heading into this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup with a series of poor finishes, Jimmie Johnson started the post-season with a solid fifth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. But the five-time champion has not won a race since he claimed the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona this past summer.

Nonetheless, Johnson feels that it’s not wise to look back upon the regular season at all during the Chase. It also seems that he is fully aware that he’ll have his chances to pick up critical wins in the final nine events.

“It doesn’t matter if you dominated [the regular season] or if you’ve been behind – [The Chase] is a 10-race stretch of it’s own,” Johnson said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “With that in mind, I haven’t won in a week. I finished fifth and had a shot to win last week. So, that’s how you have to look at it honestly.

“I know that Dover, Martinsville, our performance on the plate tracks this year, and on 1.5-miles in general, I know there are very good opportunities for us ahead. So, blinders on – focus on the No. 48 [car], focus on what we need to do and not let the outside opinions or what goes on to be a distraction for us.

“We need to run our best 10. I honestly feel if we put together our 10 best races, we’ll be in contention for the championship.”

So far, so good for Johnson, who has won the Chase with much worse results in a post-season opener than the fifth-place finish he got at Chicagoland. His run to the 2006 Cup title began rather poorly with a 39th-place finish at NHMS in that year’s first Chase race.

One of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finds himself in the same position this time around after an engine failure ruined his race last weekend.

Johnson feels that neither Earnhardt or Joey Logano (who also had an engine failure) are done for in the championship, but noted that poor finishes can remove the ability to hold your own destiny in the end.

“As you have poor finishes or bad finishes or whatever the cause, you lose control and that’s the worst part,” Johnson said. “But we’ll see. In 10 races, anything can happen. Talladega is still out there in front of us and I think once you get through Talladega, the championship picture becomes much more clear.

“Again, it’s not the way they want to start, but it’s not time to panic yet.”

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.