2 Mar

Johnson ‘kind of chuckle(s)’ at losing streak theories, says he’ll win again

first_imgMARTINSVILLE, Va. — The questions and notions that have surrounded Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak — the longest of his illustrious 17-year career — have been tough to broach. Among the theories: At age 42, he’s lost a step. His aggressive edge is gone. Competitive drive? Kaput.The suggestions have been almost laughable, especially when posed to Johnson himself.“I kind of chuckle,” said Johnson, who then kind of did. “Only 29 races, you know?  I mean, I won three last year. I guess so. I don’t think that way.”Johnson’s drought will indeed reach 29 events without a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory if he’s unable to fill the void in Monday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). But Johnson hasn’t dwelled on slumps often at the .526-mile track, either. He’s taken home nine grandfather clock trophies, tops among active drivers.Though Johnson’s career portfolio is among the all-time greats with seven series championships, 83 victories and a string of 16 seasons with multiple wins, he acknowledges that his Hendrick Motorsports team is on what he termed a “journey of growth,” trying to right the ship toward peak performance. That’s made for a bumpy road since his last win, which came June 4, 2017 at Dover International Speedway.“So sure, I’m reminded every week of a streak that’s not one that you want to be reminded of. But I’m not losing sleep over it,” Johnson said before Saturday’s practice sessions. “I know I’m going to win races. I know this team is going to win races. I know we’re going to compete for a championship. It’s just getting all of our stuff right. I think people often take for granted how competitive pro sports are and how competitive this garage area is. And, although we’ve been able to do some pretty amazing things that have never been done before, I think it’s unfair to believe that it can last forever.”RELATED: Desire still burns in ‘old-timer’ JohnsonIt’s been difficult to find sympathizers among his competitors. Still, almost every driver can relate to losing streaks, especially in a sport where winning percentages even for its legends hover in the teens.“I don’t know, it’s hard to feel bad for a guy who has won 83 races,” said Brad Keselowski, the 2012 series champ. “There are a lot worse problems going on in the world, but that said, I do know how frustrating it can be to be on a stretch where not only are you not winning, but you’re not as competitive as you want to be. That happens. There are a number of reasons why that happens and trying to figure that out is quite honestly more exhausting than trying to figure out how to go from fifth to first.“So, in a lot of ways I sympathize with the effort that I’m sure they’re putting in, but I also understand that this sport has ebbs and flows and guys that get ahead and guys that fall behind. It’s just the first time that group has really fallen behind probably in their existence to this extent. But I don’t expect it to last. With respect to that, I wouldn’t be too worried for them and I’m guessing they’re probably not too worried themselves.” MORE: Johnson through the yearsCount Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott among those without a significant degree of concern. One generation removed, the 22-year-old driver of the No. 9 took it a step further, saying Johnson’s status among the all-time best has not diminished. “I would like to have his slump. I don’t know about everybody else,” Elliott said. “Man, no, look everybody tries to ride on the age thing; that is just so not true. You don’t forget how to drive. You don’t change your driving habits. You don’t just do all that in the course of a couple of years and the guy is still one of if not the greatest driver ever to ever come through NASCAR. I would probably say the best ever without question. I just … to make accusations that he is not as good as he once was, is just simply not true for anybody.”last_img

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