Johnson Seeking More History

Jimmie Johnson

"I just know from experience, the Chase is its own environment." (Photo: Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson didn't have the kind of regular season that most expect from the four-time consecutive Sprint Cup Series champion, but that hasn't dampened the Hendrick Motorsports driver's confidence heading into the Chase.

While Johnson experienced more struggles through the first 26 races of the season than usual, he's ready to try and re-write another chapter of the record books with a fifth straight title.

"I know that last year we entered the Chase without the momentum that I wanted and I remember being a part of the celebration here and taking photos for the Chase and I was in a terrible mood," Johnson said. "We ran so bad. I thought that we had been close, I guess, with our average finish leading into the Chase, and I just know from experience, the Chase is its own environment.

"When we wake up Monday morning and whenever drivers and teams start thinking about the Chase, probably Monday morning, most guys will kickback tomorrow and relax. There's just a pit that develops in your stomach and doesn't go away. It's the championship pit and it's there."

Johnson will start the Chase as the second seed in the 12 driver standings, 10 points behind Denny Hamlin who led the series with six wins. He considers the Joe Gibbs Racing driver his strongest competitor in the title Chase in a field Johnson believes is as wide open as any in recent years.

"I look more to how he ran in the Chase last year," Johnson said of Hamlin's performance. "He was very, very strong through all of those races and had a problem at California that kind of took him out. The guy that's been the top of mind this year is the 29, doesn't matter the track, they have been quick."

Kevin Harvick, who was the regular season point leader after 26 races is also on Johnson's radar.

"Harvick has been the surprise this year and maybe I took for granted with how well Denny ran last year is that he would just be there," Johnson said. "That's been the reality to me, that he's going to be one of the guys to race for it."

Despite his experience in competing successfully in the last four Chases and coming out on top in the title run, Johnson knows the pressure will be something every driver will have to deal with starting with Sunday’s opener at New Hampshire.

"We are all going to wake up with it and deal with it and some guys handle it better than others," Johnson said. "I think our team the last four years has been really comfortable with that pit in their stomach and dealt with it well. I hope we can do it again. There's no telling.

"It's been awfully tough to win four in a row, but we'll show up and give 100% and at the end of the 10 races, if we give 100% and get beat, then we'll go home and be proud of what we did. But if we squander it away and do something stupid and say, we just didn't give it our all, we'll be disappointed. We just want to do our best."

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