Jimmie Johnson, 6-time series champion of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, has experienced his fair share of pressure and stress over the years. In his 14 years as a NASCAR competitor, Johnson has competed in 447 races and has won 67 of them, with the most recent coming in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With Johnson’s 15 percent winning percentage, however, comes much responsibility toward the fans and media to win often, and win early.
Coming into Sunday’s race, Johnson faced a tragically-long losing streak – at least for his own standards – of 13 races. Johnson’s lack of success midway through the 2014 Sprint Cup season had many media outlets wondering if this year marked the end of the Johnson dynasty.
In response to all of the media attention he had garnered through not winning, Johnson only had one line for the media following Sunday’s race: “What the hell are y’all going to write about now?”
While Johnson’s statement may have seemed a bit antagonistic, his performance on Sunday proved exactly why there was nothing to worry about to begin with.
Charlotte has always been one of Johnson’s most successful tracks, having previously won six races at NASCAR’s longest race of the season.
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) May 26, 2014
Johnson started the race Sunday in a familiar position – on the pole. Out of the seven total races Johnson has won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, three of them have come from the lead position, lending even more credence to Johnson’s dominance at the track.
48 was also the last driver to win the 600 from the pole … in 2004
— Jim Utter (@jim_utter) May 26, 2014
On Sunday, Johnson was able to lead a race-high 165 laps, 65 more than his second-place competitor, Kevin Harvick. Johnson secured his victory on Sunday by passing Matt Kenseth with 9 laps left, while holding off Harvick to cross the finish line with over a second margin of victory.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 26, 2014
In discussing his slump with the media, Johnson claimed he was never worried: “I guess we’ve created this environment for ourselves. I honestly wasn’t stressing. The fact that 12 races created that much buzz just means we’ve done a lot of great things over the years, so I’ll turn it into a compliment.”
Coming into the Coca-Cola 600, however, Johnson’s story sat on the back-burner. The headlining act Sunday was fellow driver Kurt Busch, who was seeking to become only the second man in history to complete all 1,100 miles of both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in one day.
While Busch experienced much success in his Indy car debut, finishing 6th, his night at Charlotte Motor Speedway ended on lap 273 after an engine failure: “It’s like the car just swallowed three cylinders all at once. Those things happen in motor sports. It was a good battle, though. I was hoping to do 1,100 miles today. I can’t let what happened here dampen the mood of what happened in Indianapolis,” stated Busch.
Fortunately for Johnson, the media attention should now wane as his victory almost assures his qualification for NASCAR’s post-season playoffs. And, in more good news, the next Sprint Cup race is in Dover, a track where Johnson has won five of the last ten races.
Image via Twitter