Johnson Not Looking Back
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on November 5, 2010 | 10:33 A.M. EST
“We need to be as competitive and as fast as we can possibly be at this point." (Photo: Getty Images)
In last November’s visit to Texas Johnson was swept up in an early race accident that nearly destroyed his Lowe’s Chevrolet when he spun on the backstretch and crashed hard into the inside retaining wall.
His crew made repairs and Johnson was able to return to the track after a lengthy stay in the garage area and notched a 38th-place finish.
But Johnson made a successful return to the Lone Star State in the Sprint Cup Series’ April race at TMS when he finished second behind Denny Hamlin and is using that run as a springboard to what he hopes will be another solid performance on Sunday.
“Texas is a place I love and it’s super fast and very narrow,” said Johnson, who has one career victory and a 10.1 average finish in 14 career starts. “It’s much different than other mile and half tracks we race at and it’s a challenge that I look forward to.”
Johnson maintains a 14-point lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings over Denny Hamlin heading into race eight of the post-season schedule with Kevin Harvick sitting third only 38 behind. The tight championship battle has Johnson turning up his intensity level even higher than usual in his quest for a fifth straight title.
“We need to be as competitive and as fast as we can possibly be at this point,” Johnson said of the final three Chase races. “We're going to three tracks that are good for all three competitors. As Kevin (Harvick) was saying earlier, you're going to have to run in the top five to stay in the game. Then obviously take advantage of things and win if you can. Ten extra points from first to second are going to be important. Leading laps, leading the most laps, you're going to have to be on your A game from here on out.”
While Johnson is certainly aware of Hamlin and Harvick sitting so close to him the title standings, he believes his best approach is to simply concentrate on the matter at hand and not stray from the strategy that has put him in position to potentially win an unprecedented fifth consecutive crown.
“For me we've always really approached each race with the mentality that we needed to win,” he said. You can go back to the Texas race a few years back where I worked hard to get by Matt (Kenseth). We've been able to win at Phoenix. Our Homestead performance has been getting better and better each year. I felt last year we had a chance to run with the lead group of guys and didn't need to, played it smart.”
Johnson is hoping to get his weekend off to a good start with a solid qualifying performance on Friday and then follow that up with a run at least similar to his runner-up Texas finish in April.
“It's really the same mentality,” Johnson said. “We need maximum points. Of course, it's a little bit more forgiving or easy on your team and yourself with a big points lead. But we don't have that this year. We're going to have to race, and we're ready for it.”