Busy Week Leads Johnson to Richmond
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on September 9, 2011 | 10:58 A.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson has a 21 point lead in the NSCS standings. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s already been an eventful few days for Jimmie Johnson who would like to cap it off with a victory in Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
After finishing second to Jeff Gordon in Tuesday’s rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson was a guest of President Barack Obama at the White House during a Wednesday ceremony where he was honored for his 2010 Sprint Cup title.
“If you think about it, only the Boston Celtics, the Yankees and the Canadiens have ever won more than four titles in a row,” the president said of Johnson five straight Sprint Cup championships. “And now Jimmie is breathing down the necks of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most NASCAR titles ever, which is not bad for the son of a machine operator and a school bus driver who still has plenty of seasons ahead of him.”
The Commander in Chief also took the opportunity to commend the entire NASCAR community for its involvement with the country’s troops and military personnel.
“Now, what also makes NASCAR special is the difference that it makes in the lives of so many people, especially our troops and their families,” said the president. “And I personally thanked all these guys for what they’ve been doing on behalf of military families, who are obviously huge fans of NASCAR.”
Johnson will carry that pride into this week’s Richmond race as the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet will feature a special Power of Pride paint commemorating the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11. Johnson originally drove the Power of Pride paint scheme in his Sprint Cup Series debut in October 2001 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Since then, the No. 48 machine has featured the special scheme at Charlotte in 2003, where Johnson won both the All-Star and 600-mile races in the colors, and during the 2007 Memorial Day weekend race. The scheme was intended as a tribute to the country and the men and women who serve in our armed forces.
Once the green flag flies in Saturday night’s regular season finale, Johnson will have his sights set on trying to get to Victory Lane and increasing his position when the Chase seeding takes place to kick off the playoffs the following weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson sees the 10 race stretch during the title run upping the pressure factor big time and knows how important it is to concentrate solely on the matter at hand and not focus on the other drivers in the title hunt.
“I think when you get into the Chase, that’s important to do,” he said. “It’s also the most difficult thing to do because now it’s time to race for a championship. But I can’t say that in the five championships we’ve won, that we were really searching throughout the Chase to find new speed or to find anything.
“We knew going into the Chase that what we had was what we had. I think in ’05, chasing (Tony) Stewart, we were looking for speed; we experimented some during the regular season because we had a nice big margin and then we kind of got off track throughout the Chase. And you try not to complicate things once the Chase starts. So, staying the course and what got you there seems to be a successful roadmap to the championship.”
Consistency has put Johnson on top of the Sprint Cup Series point standings and he carries a 21 point lead into the final race of the regular season.
Although he’s only won one race in the first 25, Johnson believes putting together a consistent regular season and then getting set to make a run for the title is the best plan for his race team.
“It can be and over the last five years people have used that formula if you will to put with our championships and that we've have kind of had that approach,” Johnson said. “I've always sat up here and said we're giving 100 percent every week and its more coincidence and it really is. We all sit back and look at an average finish over the Chase races and say you need to be better than that and do that to win.
“We all know that but doing it is a totally different deal and it's very difficult to pull off. So we do look at those markers and I think any good team sets goals and expectations and you rally your team around it and put that yard stick out in front of the team and say we need to do this to be in contention and you build around that. So we are all doing it but who can really pull it off is really where the magic is."