Jimmie Johnson doesn’t need to look at the racing schedule to know he hasn’t won lately. For now, it’s just a bunch of numbers.
“Man, what’s messing with my head is the stats,” he said.
The only driver to win five consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships is tired of coming close lately. He was second last Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway after leading the most laps. While that’s a good night for most, Johnson is more accustomed to completing the deal.
“Second (stinks),” he said.
Johnson has just one win and six second-place finishes in his last 35 races dating back to last April. Before his year-long run of frustration started, Johnson averaged a victory in every 6.2 starts. His average finish in the last 35 races is a cool 12.3.
His race team is concentrating more on getting things turned around than dwelling on the past. More than anything else, they’re trying to figure out how to turn good runs into wins.
“What messes with my head is when I miss a chance to win,” Johnson said. “When you run 15th all day long and finish second, you leave the track knowing you got more than you should have. The days that you lead the most laps, and dominate a race and come home second, those sting.”
The powerhouse lineup at Hendrick Motorsports is winless this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the best of the bunch this season with five top-10 wins in seven starts. His winless streak dates back to 2008.
Johnson is eighth in the standings heading into Sunday’s race at the Kansas Speedway, while Jeff Gordon is 17th and Kasey Kahne is 27th.
The company has 199 wins in the Sprint Cup Series – a number it’s been stuck on since last October. There’s a quiet rivalry among the four to be the one who gives car owner Rick Hendrick the milestone win. There’s a much greater rivalry to be the one who gets back on the winning track.
“Yeah, I mean, whenever it happens is going to be very special for the company,” Johnson said. “Again, I just want to win. I don't care where it is, whatever reason. There's 36 of these things a year, and I want to take home a bunch of trophies.
“Second is nice, but winning is everything.”
It’s taken Johnson awhile to get used to not winning races and championships. The defending series champion always gets the first parking space in the garage area. Several times during the season-opening Daytona 500, Johnson mistakenly walked to the back of Tony Stewart’s truck.
The only way to get the most-coveted parking space back is to win.
“Growing up in racing, I didn’t have this kind of success until I got to the Cup level,” he said. “It’s not that I was ever happy with not winning, but you just learn how to deal with your emotions and you learn how to learn from experiences and get better and stronger at it.
“But nothing is eating at me. Right now I’m very optimistic about our season. I have not paid attention to a stat or a number since our last win. I feel that we’re knocking on the door and we’re running on the race track where we should – up front. That’s going to give us chance to win.”
And that’s a number Johnson can remember.