Johnson aims to revive winning ways at Monster Mile

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

DOVER — It’s almost as if the Monster Mile owed him one.

Jimmie Johnson had dominated Dover International Speedway, winning a record 10 Sprint Cup races between 2002 and ‘15.

So when Johnson struggled in his last two Dover races, it just seemed like the law of averages catching up with him.

“I think last year shows that you really can’t count on a race track always being kind to a driver,” Johnson said as he met with reporters at Dover on Friday.

“It’s part of racing. I’ve learned it through many different lessons over my racing career. Last year, I think, kind of showed everybody once again that you just can’t take a race or a track for granted for anybody.”

That being said, Johnson returns to the Monster Mile with a good deal of optimism this weekend.

He’s eighth in the season points standings and still needs a good showing in Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 to advance to the next round of the Chase.

Besides actually winning the race, which would automatically keep him in the Chase, Johnson would also advance with as few as 24 points (with a repeat race winner) or 29 points (if there is a new winner).

Before the last couple Dover races, that would have seemed like a pretty modest goal for Johnson.

But that was before he finished just 41st in the fall 2015 race and then 25th in May. Still, those rough finishes haven’t changed Johnson’s fondness for the Monster Mile.

“I’m excited to be back to my best race track, without a doubt,” he said. “We’re back with high hopes. I love being here.”

While Johnson does own a pair of victories this season, he has only 11 top-10 finishes overall. That ties him for the fewest number of top 10s among the first 12 drivers in the points standings.

Sixth-place Kevin Harvick has the most top 10s with 22 this season.

As much as anything, Johnson said the weather and, in turn, the track conditions may be the biggest challenges going into the weekend.

The region has been hit by heavy rains and high winds starting on Thursday.

If all the rubber is washed from the track at the start of Sunday’s race, Johnson said everyone will have to be patient with their set-ups.

“We all know how we want our cars to feel during the race (and) come with our ideas built on a mid-race balance that’s needed,” said Johnson. “And then you show up and the track is green.”

The wind just gives drivers something else to worry about.

“If it’s a consistent wind, that’s one thing where you can kind of adjust to it and get in the rhythm of it,” Johnson said on Friday. “But the gusts are what really cause a problem.

“So, between those two elements, I’m just going to remind myself all day long what I think I will need for Sunday and just try to live with maybe a little less lap time than I would want today … then really focus on a feel in the race car.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.