Johnson talks contract and coming home to California
Despite a slow start to the season, Jimmie Johnson isn’t worried about a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.
After 16 seasons — and 80 wins — behind the wheel of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, job security isn’t something that concerns the seven-time champion.
“We’re always talking and working on the details,” Johnson said. “We don’t have anything ready yet. I’m sure we’ll (have something to) announce before long. As you can tell, I’m not really concerned. I feel very confident we’ll put something together with Lowe’s as our primary sponsor.
“Hendrick’s is my home. So, I’m not worried when something will actually be executed and at what point it will be executed but I know it will happen soon.”
Johnson scored his first top-10 finish of the season last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. His average qualifying effort of 18th after the first four races of the 2017 season, is seven positions higher than his career-average of 11.1. His average finish of 18.2 is six positions behind his average career finish of 12.1. Johnson has just two lead lap finishes.
There was this pressure — granted it was early in the year — but standing there, climbing out the car and the minutes that followed that, the relief that came off of my shoulders know that I could win
Jimmie Johnson recalling first Cup win
Last year, Johnson’s average finish was 7.75 after the first four races of 2016, he had completed every lap raced and was third in the standings. Johnson moved up to 16th in the standings after finishing ninth.
Staying on top
The timing was perfect for Johnson to return home to Southern California and Auto Club Speedway. The El Cajon, Calif-native is the defending race winner and leads the Cup tour with six wins. Johnson has led 980 of 5104 laps races and enjoys an average finish of 6.5.
“You can’t be on top forever,” Johnson said. “We do have some work to do — especially on the short run. We haven’t executed as cleanly as we need to. Daytona, we were running second or third and get crashed. Last week we were a good top-five or top-three car on the long run but finished with some short restarts and that was our weak point.
“Absolutely, we’ve got work to do.”
Returning to his roots is a grounding experience for Johnson. Although his life has changed dramatically from his humble beginnings, Johnson wanted his children to see the neighborhood he came from outside of San Diego. He hopes the exposure will give his daughters a better appreciation for the gifts they’ve been blessed with.
“Obviously, with my situation today and the way we travel and great place we live in Charlotte and just the means that I have now and the lifestyle I’ve been able to create, it’s so different,” Johnson said. “And as a parent I know that I want my kids to appreciate what they have and work hard for the world they want to create for themselves. And my kids are starting a heck of a lot better off than I did from that perspective.
“I grew up in a house full of love and understanding and highly motivated parents that pushed me to chase my dreams and I want to give that to my children as well, obviously. But, to take them back and show them the street I played on and I even saw some of my old bicycle jumps that are kind of eroded away now on the side of the road up in Crest (California) where I grew up. They are young, but I feel like they need to see that and to hear my daughters Genevieve’s comments about the house and how small it was and things like that, it’s like ‘yep that is why we are here.’”
Remembering the first one
Johnson will never forget his first win at his home track — Auto Club Speedway — in 2002. He was just a rookie, making his 13th career start when he pulled off the win over Kurt Busch. For Johnson, a relative unknown who had just 72 Xfinity Series starts and just one win to his credit, the victory was a defining moment in his career.
“You couldn’t script it any better,” Johnson recounted. “I’m still amazed it turned out that way. I’m still amazed that this has turned out this way to start with. When I look back mentally to that point in my life, I just wanted to win a race. When Jeff (Gordon) won the championship the year before and they gave me his inventory of cars and equipment, I felt like I had to win — deep down in my heart. I felt like Lowe’s signed up because they felt that I could win.
“There was this pressure — granted it was early in the year — but standing there, climbing out the car and the minutes that followed that, the relief that came off of my shoulders know that I could win. I’d only won one Busch (Xfinity Series) race before that. All the conversation before that was, ‘What was Jeff Gordon and Ricky Hendrick thinking? Who is this guy?’ I was very relieved…and I was able to do it very early at my home track.”
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|Location||Auto Club Speedway|