Johnson Has His Mojo Back
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 21, 2017 | 1:15 P.M. EST
“A tricky start to our season to say the least and to punch our ticket to the playoffs and get that win made for a great off weekend.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Johnson comes into Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on the heels of his 81st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Texas the week prior to the Easter weekend break. After a slow start to the year, Johnson’s win re-energized the seven-time series champion over the off weekend.
“Damn straight,” he said Friday at Bristol. “We would have been drowning sorrows instead of celebrating and enjoying it. There is no better way to go into an off weekend than with a win or a strong run, strong performance because we all sit inside of our heads and think about where we are at, what is going on.
“A tricky start to our season to say the least and to punch our ticket to the playoffs and get that win made for a great off weekend.”
Johnson has admitted this year’s new stage racing format has taken some adjustment. Breaking each race into stages has impacted the competition and Johnson believes it will be a key element to Sunday’s 500-lap race at the .533-mile Bristol short track.
“The stage racing just changed the flow of a race for sure,” he said. “I think drivers like myself, maybe (Matt) Kenseth, I don’t know, there are some guys that maybe don’t qualify as well that always show up at the front when the checkered falls.
“It is messing with that flow for sure. Short track racing will definitely heighten it and I think you will see more of it here because we can lean on one another, same thing at Martinsville. I definitely agree, stage racing has changed the game and I don’t see it calming down. It’s going to continue to ramp up.”
Even with the various challenges, Johnson is still looking forward to this weekend’s racing at Bristol. He has four top-10 finishes in his last five Bristol starts and hopes to add to his recent hot streak on Sunday.
“I show up with great optimism,” he said. “I feel like we don’t necessarily qualify great here, but I always raced much better. We have been top three, top five, finishing position quite a few times.
“Maybe a few looks at a win with a very competitive car and just hopeful to kind of raise it up a notch, use the momentum from two weeks ago from the win in Texas and find just a little bit more speed here and go to Victory Lane once again.”