Johnson Knows It’s Time to Go

Jimmie Johnson

"It's pressure time, it's go time, it's all that stuff with four to go." (Photo: Getty Images)

There are only four races left in the season and Jimmie Johnson is ready to kick things into high gear in his quest for a sixth Sprint Cup Series championship.

Johnson enters Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway trailing Brad Keselowski by seven points in the Chase standings. The Hendrick Motorsports driver clearly understands the sense of urgency that surrounds this year’s title run.

“It's pressure time, it's go time, it's all that stuff with four to go,” said Johnson. “The points as tight as they are, we expect to be one of the cars racing for the win.”

While Johnson is aware the clock is ticking toward the end of the season, he also knows things can’t be pushed too far each week.

“Well, I mean, there's some times when you have a car that's not handling right, it's one of those weekends where things aren't clicking, you have to be smart about it and get every point you can, but not be stupid, not create more issues fighting for a spot or hanging on to something, fighting with the team,” he said.

“Then there's other weekends when you've got the car and it is time to take some chances. So it just depends on the situation. End of the day, first of all, you have to finish the race. I almost eliminated that, our chances at the Chase, by crashing last week. Luckily we got the car fixed. I can't be spinning the car out and be hopeful that we're going to get away with it.”

Johnson did make a miraculous recovery last week in Kansas to finish ninth after spinning and severely damaging the Lowe’s Chevrolet. His team managed to make repairs during several pit stops under caution and Johnson never lost a lap.

He was able to bring home the top-10 finish and hold serve with Keselowski in the standings.

“I could tell from the impact it wasn't all that hard,” Johnson said of the impact he made with the wall. “I knew I didn't bend the rear suspension. I knew the front end didn't hit. From a mechanical standpoint, I knew the chassis was sound and it really was an aero situation."

So as the Chase moves to the half-mile Martinsville track Sunday, where Johnson has been incredibly successful throughout his career, the experience of having been in the middle of championship fights in the past may be the difference in deciding the outcome.

“Without a doubt, experience is so helpful,” said Johnson. “My friends, after we were able to win the first, second, so forth and so on, everybody would share with me through the season how stressed I was. I knew I was stressed, but I thought I was hiding it well.

“Year one, I wasn't hiding it well. By year five, I found a way to enjoy myself down the stretch in the final race. That has led to this year.”

And once again Johnson is in the mix for the crown. Rather than fight against the pressure the comes with battling for NASCAR’s biggest prize, Johnson chooses to embrace it.

“It's go time,” he said. “It's tough to live it because it's stressful, but this is what we grew up wanting to be part of as kids, racing for a championship and duking it out.”

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