Friday, August 01, 2008

Johnson, team appear to be 'catching up'

LONG POND, Pa. - I wrote about Jimmie Johnson for the "That's Racin' " page this week, so I didn't think I'd need to write something else about him this early in the weekend (although, I'll tell you right now that unless something major happens he's going to be my pick to win here Sunday).

But Johnson was in the media center before the Cup practice on Friday and was talking about how hard his team has been working to get "caught up" this year. That's an amazing thing to hear coming from a guy whose team has won the past two championships.

But Johnson was talking about how he and his No. 48 Chevrolet team got to Las Vegas earlier this year and were just horrible.

"We thought, 'Aw, maybe it was just a bad test,'" Johnson said, referring to a preseason test session at the Vegas track. But when he went back to race, Johnson didn't wreck but still couldn't run within two seconds of the fastest cars' speeds. He finished 29th and was never even close to being competitive.

Johnson said that after that race he and his team were still reluctant to believe they really had real, fundamental issues.

"It took three or four races before we could even admit it," he said. "It was like one of those addiction recovery things where you have to admit it first before you can deal with it."

Johnson said it wasn't that his team didn't work hard in the offseason. "We were just working in the wrong areas," Johnson said.

What's remarkable about that is it shows how tough this business is. Johnson's team has been at the absolute top of its game for the past two seasons and has been pretty darn good since the No. 48 Chevrolet was first rolled out, but still it managed to get "lost" just like any other team.

Johnson said the team tested at Pocono and figured out some things about how the new car, the bump stops and the tires need to work on big tracks like this one. It took a little while to digest all of that and put it into their race cars, but Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus seem to be back on track now.

All of those people who believe this sport is only about "going around in circles" or "rednecks turning left" don't have a clue how complicated it is and how hard these guys work.

- David Poole


Julie said...

I think what makes the 48 team so intimidating is even after two back-to-back championships they still act like a team eager to prove themselves. Some teams seem to take a year off following a championship season, but the 48 team is relentless. They are as hungry and determined to get their third championship as they were the first.

I wish the other teams going up against the 48 team good luck in this championship battle, because that's what it's going to take to beat them. They have more Chase experience than any other team save the 17 crew, they're confident, peaking at the right time, and they're proven performers when the pressure is on.

Brenda said...

Johnson's winning of the pole this weekend shows that maybe he has turned the corner and will be a force in the remainder of the season.

Anonymous said...

Will JJ ever figure out how to win a road course? How will they fare at Bristol? Luckily, neither of those are in The Chase.

Monkeesfan said...

Johnson may be figuring out things, but Kasey Kahne thought that entering the Pocono 500; he won it going away, then the real muscle of 2008 - Kyle Busch - reassumed control.

I don't see any kind of sustained challenge from anyone to Kyle Busch this season. Johnson may win the Summer 500 but beyond that I still think Kyle Busch has too much HP and too much moxie right now.