Friday Fontana Notebook: Jimmie Johnson: Wins are big, but points are still important

Friday Fontana Notebook

Jimmie Johnson: Wins are big, but points are still important

Mar. 21, 2014

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

FONTANA, Calif.—From Jimmie Johnson’s point of view, it’s far too early to worry.

True, Johnson is 0-for-4 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year, but the mini drought hasn’t raised any red flags for the six-time champion, who averages better than one win in every seven starts over his career.

“It’s not even close to time (to worry) yet,” Johnson said Friday before opening Sprint Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway. “When you look at the stats and you have 16 different winners in a year, it’s a pretty rare occurrence.

“I still think that points are every bit as important as they have been until you get to Homestead.”

Johnson noted that, at every stage of the qualification process for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and in the Chase itself, the points leader will advance. In the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top finisher among four eligible drivers wins the series championship.

“Even when you get into the Chase itself, the top guy in points will advance in pretty much every scenario or every scenario–even the final one–to race at Homestead. So points are still the focus in what I’m looking at.

“We’ve been able to win multiple races a year with a certain mind-set. I’m not going to chase home runs. I’m looking at a smooth and consistent 26 races, and when we get a look at a home run, we’re going to swing for it. But we’re not stepping up to the plate every time trying to hit it out.”

It’s hard to argue with an approach that has produced 66 victories and six championships in 439 starts. And by the way, Johnson toured the two-mile track in 38.163 seconds (188.664 mph) on his first lap Friday, faster than Kyle Busch’s 2005 record qualifying lap (38.248 seconds/188.245 mph).


Though Kyle Larson posted the best finish of his fledgling NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career last Sunday at .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway, the rookie driver of the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet prefers the bigger tracks with multiple racing grooves.

“I love racing at Auto Club Speedway,” said Larson, who finished 10th at Bristol in his eighth Cup start. “It’s probably one of my favorite tracks, because it’s so wide. You can run anywhere on the track, it seems like. Grip changes throughout the race and slows down throughout a run.

“Those seem to be the tracks that I think I do the best at, even though last week at Bristol was, as far as my stats go, my best track. But I like these bigger, slicker tracks.”


In last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Joey Logano infuriated three-time series champion Tony Stewart by blocking, as Stewart saw it, on a late restart.

Last week’s Bristol winner, Carl Edwards, however, feels that late in the event, gentlemanly racing goes out the window.

“On the last restart, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of the word ‘etiquette’ in relation to that,” Edwards said Friday after opening Cup practice at the two-mile track. “I don’t know if there is much–now especially. They ought to charge more for the seats down in Turn 1.

“Here, they drop the green flag, and if one guy stumbles or shows a sign of weakness and there is a lane, the track is like 85 feet wide, plus a little apron and grass. There’s a lot of room to run here. I don’t know that there will be any etiquette, and there will probably be people mad afterwards. It’s going to be interesting.”


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