Can Texas end Jimmie Johnson's "highly frustrating" struggles?

Two years ago, Jimmie Johnson’s performance so far this weekend at Texas would be an excellent forecast for a victory.

shares
comments
Can Texas end Jimmie Johnson's "highly frustrating" struggles?
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally crew
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally and Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Symbicort wreck
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally

Throughout his Hall of Fame worthy career, good Fridays have typically turned into good Sundays for Johnson, including seven victories in his NASCAR Cup Series career at Texas Motor Speedway.

Already this weekend, Johnson was fastest in Friday’s lone practice session, won each round of qualifying and the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly 500 and had the fastest average speed in Saturday’s final practice among those drivers who ran at least 10 consecutive laps.

Read Also:

In the heyday of his career, no one would bet against another win being the likely next step, but these are different days for Johnson.

He is immersed in a career-worst 65-race winless streak, having not scored a victory since winning at Dover, Del., in spring 2017.

While Hendrick Motorsports has struggled with performance as a whole in recent seasons, the victory drought shines brightest on Johnson, in part because of his record-tying seven series championships and 83 career Cup victories.

One week after struggling at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – one of his most successful tracks – it appears Johnson may have sharply turned the corner.

“I’m thankful to have just raw speed in the car and I think it’s that. And we’ll have to see how it works in traffic,” Johnson, 43, said. “I think at Las Vegas we had a car capable of really performing well on Friday and we got in race conditions and dirty air and we didn’t have exactly what we needed.

“The work that went into these cars and the work that’s gone into, honestly the last 36 months; and we’re not out of the woods yet. But this is a very good weekend for us to really build on our 1.5-mile program. And I think we’re off to a great start.”

Winning the pole is no small matter for Johnson, who has struggled at times in qualifying over his career. In fact, this weekend’s pole at Texas is his first since the 2016 season even though it’s the 36th of his career.

“It’s crazy that I have had so many more race wins than poles. Fridays and trying to squeeze out that last half of tenth (of a second) has never been my strength as a driver,” he said.

“It’s always been racing and other drivers … but to keep chipping away at it is really cool and this one came at an important time for our company and my racing needed a nice shot in the arm.”  

Johnson’s No. 48 team took part in the preseason test at Las Vegas in late January with the new aero package and came away fairly encouraged.

Unfortunately, as the season has started, his best finish in the three races which predominately featured the package was 17th at Auto Club Speedway.

Once the West Coast swing was over, HMS went to work to make adjustments from what they learned in the early-season races. So far, that work has translated into speed on the track.

“I feel like Atlanta was the track that was kind of an outlier; but Vegas was really the first true test in my opinion. And what we had there didn’t work and we’re totally different here,” Johnson said.

“We still have the race ahead of us. We’ll see where that pans out. But our struggles have been highly frustrating just because of the effort that’s gone into it. Thankfully we’re having a car shine on certain weeks and we’re able to learn from that and find our way.”

Denny Hamlin fastest in race-like final practice at Texas

Previous article

Denny Hamlin fastest in race-like final practice at Texas

Next article

Joey Logano beats Johnson for Stage 1 win at Texas

Joey Logano beats Johnson for Stage 1 win at Texas
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Texas
Location Texas Motor Speedway
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Author Jim Utter
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020