Why Jimmie Johnson Feels \'doomed\' Amid Early Season Slump

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Going into the 11th race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season, Jimmie Johnson continues to face the double-edged sword he and his No. 48 Chevrolet team created over the years.

Now in his 17th full-time season, 42-year-old Johnson has accumulated a record-tying seven Cup Series championships — five of which were consecutive from 2006 to 2010 — and 83 race wins. Despite having three wins last season and advancing to the penultimate round of the playoffs before being eliminated, Johnson’s last trip to Victory Lane was almost a year ago, allowing people to question everything from his ability to the quality of his car.

He’s had three top-10 finishes in 2018, which is still considered a slump for the most decorated active driver.

It’s also what led Johnson to say he’s “doomed” no matter what after he and his team set the bar so high. Friday at Dover International Speedway — where Johnson is, by far, the winningest driver with 11 victories and where he won his last checkered flag — he was asked about the mile-long track being a measuring stick for his team and if he buys into the speculation that he’s in trouble if he doesn’t win Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Johnson winning the 2017 AAA 400 Drive for Autism. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

He said:

“I think I’m doomed, regardless, right now. I mean it doesn’t matter the track or the result unless it’s a win, and lots of wins. I think we have created an environment of very high expectations because of the success we’ve had, and I think people forget how special our run has been. And we certainly want to get back into those ways and have it happen again. But history shows it doesn’t happen very often, and we’re very fortunate to harness lightning for a long stretch of time.

“The encouraging news is we are making our cars better each and every week. I’m more of a realist in where we’re at and what we’re doing and reflect back and think, ‘Damn, we had it really good for a while, and it was really special.’ But we’re a victim of our own success.”

Doesn’t sound like Johnson’s concerns will change no matter how he does this weekend, but, no doubt, a top-5 finish would at least be helpful.

His and the 48 car’s success has been on a slow but still upward trend since the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, when he didn’t even get close to the halfway point before crashing. But following that, his average finish for the following four races was 16.25, while his average for the last four races he completed is ninth place. His highest this season was third at Bristol Motor Speedway in April.

Of his nearly year-long winless streak, Johnson said:

“We just haven’t had the cars where we need them, and I’m a part of that process. So, I’m not pointing fingers. I think as a group from everybody at Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and everybody on the No. 48 car and my other three teammates and their teams, we collectively need to do a better job. …

“We have been the benchmark or that high watermark for so many years, that other manufacturers and teams invested a couple of years in figuring out how to beat us. And we’re living through that right now. We’re needing to recreate ourselves and how we go about handling business. And a lot of that change has happened, and I think it’ll just take a little bit longer before it really starts providing for us.”

But he didn’t get to seven titles by slacking when he struggled, as he reminds his followers with frequent inspirational Babe Ruth quotes.

Looking to capitalize at Dover like he’s done so many times before, he said he’s been able to fall “into a rhythm at this track that I could help steer the team and find that extra tenth of a second that’s separated us.”

Source : https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/05/jimmie-johnson-nascar-slump-winless-dover-history-record-doomed-hendrick-motorports

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