Following his third victory of the season, Hendrick Motorsports' rookie Jimmie Johnson is looking forward to the remainder of the season. Not only is he in a heated battle with Penske's Ryan Newman for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, but...
Following his third victory of the season, Hendrick Motorsports' rookie Jimmie Johnson is looking forward to the remainder of the season. Not only is he in a heated battle with Penske's Ryan Newman for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, but he currently sits second in overall championship points, trailing Mark Martin by 30.
"The fact that we're in the middle of the points race and we've got a Rookie of the Year battle on our hands with Ryan Newman, we are putting the icing on the cake by winning some races. But we have a chance of a lifetime here to win a championship and we're taking it very seriously. We're looking forward to these last eight races."
"Our team performs the best when we let our rookie status take the edge off of it and looking at what has gotten us to this point which is being aggressive and racing hard. Trying to race for wins, has put us in this position in the points. We've got our mindset on winning races. Hopefully we can do that a few more times. If we're able to (win races) that'll be what earns us the championship."
New Hampshire winner, Newman, holds an 18 point spread over Johnson in the rookie battle. Both rookies currently lead all other drivers with 17 top-10 finishes. Although Johnson has two more victories then Newman, the Penske driver has more top fives, handing him more points for his consistency.
Sure Johnson entered the season with the rookie title as his top priority. But given the fact he has performed beyond expectations with the three wins and after his steady climb to second in the overall points, Johnson says his priorities have now taken a step up. "With the way the points system is structured, we've had the consistency to be successful in the championship battle, but not the top fives that Ryan has had to stay on top in the Rookie of the Year battle. So in some respects, it seems like we have a better handle on the championship than we do in the Rookie of the Year battle. Our first goal and objective was to make races and be competitive. If we win the title and not the Rookie of the Year, I don't think we'll lose much sleep over it."
Not convinced that he's capable of winning the title in his rookie season? If his current on-track performance isn't reason enough to prove his capability, then his childhood desire will. "When I was 8 years old, I was competing for a championship on motorcycles. Toward the end of the season, I fell and broke my knee and needed reconstructive surgery. It put me out of the season. I wanted to compete for that championship. My mom and dad did some math and realized that if I started each event, I would tie for points. So we welded a bracket on the side of my motorcycle and I put my leg on there and I started each event and ran one lap around the race track. The other kid won every single event, but I still had more wins. We tied for points, but I won the championship."