After a disappointing end to the 2012 season, Jimmie Johnson is more than ready to get back to racing. Battling neck and neck with the Championship Winner Brad Keselowski, it looked like Johnson was going to get his 6-pack, but fate had other ideas.
After taking both the pole positions and the wins at Martinsville and Texas, it looked like Johnson was well on his way to winning his 6th Championship but fate had other plans. Phoenix looked promising for Johnson but a melted bead caused him to blow a right front tire and slam the wall. Going into Homestead, his Championship hopes looked bleak, but not lost.
For the first 212 laps of the Homestead Finale, it looked like Johnson had it in the bag. After leading a majority of the race, Johnson came down pit road for a routine pit stop, and that’s where it all started unraveling. During the pit stop, his crew forgot to tighten one of the lug nuts causing Johnson to have to pit again which left him one lap down and 20 points behind Kelesowski.
Then it got even worse. Johnson felt a vibration and could smell what he thought was a burning gear. He pulled into the garage for the final 43 laps, with a hole in an oil line. In the end, Keselowski won the Championship and Johnson finished 3rd in points, 40 behind Keselowski and 1 point behind second place Clint Bowyer.
Going in to 2013 with a new car, Johnson and his team, along with the rest of the Hendrick Organization, are optimistic about their Championship hopes. With all four Hendrick cars in the Chase last season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that again.
“It doesn’t (add any extra pressure), because we feel (that we’ll have four cars in the Chase) and we believe that,” said Johnson. “Last year, when he (Mr. Rick Hendrick) went on the record in front of everybody and said that, that was a lot of pressure. I was waiting for him to drop the hammer this year and I think a couple of us were smiling on the stage wondering what he was going to say, but he let us off the hook there. I’m sure we’ll hear about it all year long in our meetings, and that’s great. You know we love to have that; it’s a kick in the pants to get things going.”
After losing the last 2 Championships, Johnson acknowledged that there was “a pressure on me that I didn’t know existed until the streak ended.” Now he says he’s got a “clear mind” and he isn’t worried about the streak anymore.