The question was blunt, and the answer was too.
“You’ve only led 28 laps in the last 15 races, so how are you guys going to fix it?” Jimmie Johnson was asked during his Thursday media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson didn’t sugarcoat the answer.
“We’re just not where we want to be, bottom line,” he said. “This sport is not forgiving and past results doesn’t buy you a damn thing in the present.
“We’ve been a third to fifth-place car, but we haven’t been a dominant car. We need to find that extra tenth to get our mojo going.”
He’s suddenly 12th in the points after an accident in Kansas with Greg Biffle; the 40th place finish was his worst Chase result since 2005.
Suddenly, the usually Chase-invincible Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team, led by crew chief Chad Knaus, are on the verge of being eliminated.
Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 in May, the last time NASCAR raced in Charlotte. But he said he cannot afford to rest on his laurels and admitted the team wouldn’t be able to win with its May setup.
“If we came back with the May setup, we’d be two or three more tenths off (now),” Johnson said. “We’re taking track records down by couple tenths from spring to fall races. You don’t have a chance to sit still in this sport, and you have to progress on the car.”
Johnson is extra determined to get a win – or good result – achieved at Charlotte considering the wild card that is Talladega next week.
“Maybe the format has heightened that some,” he said. “You only have three races to advance here. From my own standpoint, I’ve usually been in a good situation in Charlotte, but I always wait til I get to Talladega. That one’s always lurking. It’s always out there waiting for us.”