A couple weeks ago, Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team hit up the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway and laid down some solid laps.
“After two days, we really honed in on the balance of the car and comfort of the car,” Johnson commented of that test.
It showed on Sunday night as Johnson dominated, leading 255 laps, on his way to victory in the AAA 500.
With the car as strong as it was, it was just about keeping it fine tuned throughout the night and hoping the pieces came together at the end.
“When you have a dominant car, it is so stressful because you’re just waiting for that thing that can get you, whatever it is,” Johnson commented.
Johnson did mention with 14 laps to go that he thought he felt a vibration, but it didn’t look to have caused problems as Johnson held a solid four second lead over his teammate.
With being right in the thick of the championship battle – leading Matt Kenseth by seven points with two races to go – the performance looks good on Johnson and the 48 team’s part. However, well you’d think it’d put more pressure on Kenseth heading into Phoenix, Johnson doesn’t feel it will.
“At this point of the season if you’re in contention, you’ve got more pressure than you ever wanted to you,” he commented. “It’s just there. So I don’t know if this puts anymore. They were able to get some points on us last week. We got some on them this week, so I’m not sure.
“But I know where we are and where our team is and our focus and how good of a test we had in Homestead, and we’re very excited to get out to Phoenix and go racing again.”
Last year, Johnson found himself in the same position – leading by seven points heading into Phoenix. Instead in front of Kenseth, it was in front of eventual champion Brad Keselowski. Last year it turned into Johnson failing to win the championship due to problems at Phoenix. This year, he hopes to turn the fortunes around to his favor for his sixth championship.
“We learn lessons each and every year,” Johnson commented. “I know when I go to Phoenix the balance of the car and what I had felt last year led to a blown right front tire. So we’ll show up there and make sure that from my standpoint and what I feel and what Chad sees with tire pressures and temps and the overall balance of the car that we don’t overwork that right front tire.”
Johnson added that he feels more optimistic this year than he did going into the final races last year. He finished third at Phoenix in the spring and just came off a test at Homestead, where he felt his team tested well.
“It’s so weird because I’ve been in position before where I’ve had these amazing sensations and feelings that a championship was going to happen, and we were able to do it for those five years in a row,” Johnson continued. “There were other years where I had those feelings, and it didn’t happen. I think 2004, we had everything going our way it seemed like, and it didn’t happen. Last year was another good example of us taking control late in the Chase, and then that ended with two bad races.
”I guess the lesson in all of that is I’m not counting on anything, and I have to go to Phoenix and race, same as Homestead. It does simplify things a little bit. I’m not going to get too excited about things during the course of the week. I’m going to work real hard and train my butt off. Stay in this little world that I’ve been living in for the last five or six months, but more so the last eight weeks, and show up ready to go these next two weeks.”