Jimmie Johnson ready and focused
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (centre) speaks to crew members in the garage area during a break in practice for the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach. (Reuters)
Jimmie Johnson is upset at himself for the way the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team failed to win a sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2011.
And that should serve as a warning shot to the 42 other Cup drivers this season that (Five-time), as he is known in the garage area, is back and focused.
Johnson, in a sit-down with media members at Daytona International Speedway, said that as he looks back at last season, he sees things that he could have done differently that might have changed the outcome of his Chase for the Championship.
"I'm just upset at the way we lost the championship last year," he said.
Johnson not only lost the Cup, he tumbled to sixth place and out of the running with two races still left on the schedule last season.
"At points within the Chase we had momentum and things going our way," he said. "When I look back on it, I find the way in which we lost it is the tough thing.
"If we get beat, we get beat, (but) we beat ourselves, and I just don't want to do that again."
Johnson blames the outcome on what he sees as complacency on the No. 48 team that wasn't there in the five previous seasons and he promised won't be there this season when he and crew chief Chad Knaus begin the 2012 season Sunday in the Daytona 500.
"I didn't realize that over the five years or six years that we didn't change as much maybe as we needed to and evolve," he said. "It's tough to leave a successful road map and Chad and the team and I have been good at reinventing ourselves each year.
"But until the streak was broken, looking back at this off season, what we have been through and trying to rebuild the team and make sure we are looking at everything we can, we have a different depth."
Johnson said that far from pointing fingers at Knaus or any particular member of the No. 48 team, he looks at himself first; at how he must do things differently this season to make it back to the championship.
"I'm focusing on my interaction with the team, how I provide information with the team, what information I'm looking at, there are a lot of things I haven't done in the past and I felt like I was one of the most in-depth drivers out there," he said. "I'm trying to even take that step further now. We have to reinvent ourselves in some ways this year and we are ready for it."
Sounds like a driver who is back in the groove.
Since falling one point short of a championship last season, Carl Edwards has had to endure more than three months of "what if" questions.
His standard answer was that last season is done and he is ready to challenge for the Cup again this season.
And by putting his No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford on the pole for the Daytona 500 this week it took the sting out of those kind of questions.
"I've been telling everybody - it seems like every media question and all anybody says is, 'How great would it have been to have one more point and how did you deal with that this off-season?'" he said. "I think this is nice to come here and show that ... everybody at Roush Fenway went back and worked hard and kept their heads down and didn't let the disappointment of not winning that championship slow us down but, instead, gave us real motivation."
The IZOD IndyCar series will probably start without 2003 Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy behind the wheel of the Michael Shank Racing Indy Dallara DW12. Shank said this week the team still isn't even near ready to go testing and he does not want to go to the opening IndyCar race in St. Petersburg cold .... Montreal's Alex Tagliani, on the other hand, was in Texas Tuesday testing the Bryan Herta Autosport DW12 at Texas Motor Speedway. Other IndyCar drivers at TMS were Penske's Ryan Briscoe and KV Racing's Tony Kanaan ... Next season NASCAR will revert back to the former criteria for the Budweiser Shootout and that would make all the pole winners for this season plus past Shootout winners eligible for the non-points event ... U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown battled in a final-round meeting Sunday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. Brown edged seven-time world champion Schumacher with a 3.793-second pass at 319.82 m.p.h to Schumacher's 3.813-second run at 318.17 m.p.h.