Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Jimmie Johnson says he's perplexed about teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s lack of success


The four musketeers: Dale Jr., Jimmie, Jeff and Mark (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   When it comes to the enigma that is known as Dale Earnhardt Jr., teammate Jimmie Johnson says he's just as mystified as everyone else.
   "Working with those guys, they're working their tails off to get stuff right," Johnson says of Earnhardt and crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
    "Last weekend they were extremely optimistic about their car in the debriefs that we had leading into the race….even race day morning.
    "I think they're learning; they're running the course.
     "I don't know what I would change.
     "There's a lot of great things that come from Tony Jr., and the ideas that he has. And Junior is as committed and focused as I've seen him, and giving great feedback.
    "Hopefully, whatever is needed will spark and off they'll go."
    Of course Johnson himself, after bum weekends at Talladega and Richmond, needs to find a spark too.
   "I knew we slipped some in the points, but I didn't realize it was that far," Johnson says.
    "The last two weeks we've had great race cars, and just had some things not go our way. We've got caught up in some wrecks. Then we had a mechanical problem with the brakes last weekend.
    "You're going to have that at different points throughout the year."
   With a win at Martinsville, sandwiched among a third at Bristol, a second at Texas and a fourth at Phoenix, Johnson certainly isn't having a bad spring.
    However he has fallen to sixth in the standings, 151 points behind teammate and tour leader Jeff Gordon.
   "And we want a big cushion between where we are and the cut-off for the chase….so our focus is really about collecting points right now and not taking unnecessary risks," Johnson says, perhaps then taking himself out of contention in Saturday's Southern 500.
   "Where we were a few weeks ago let us race at Talladega instead of ride…and then from Talladega to Richmond we've lost a bunch of points, so now we need to protect a little bit more.
    "It's just really understanding the environment I'm in, and the situations I'm in, and trying to be smart: 'This looks a little dicey right now -- do I really need to be pushing at this point of the race?'
    "And the same with Chad (Knaus, his crew chief): if a two-tire stop is risky, or maybe trying to stretch it on fuel at the end, we just don't need to play that game right now."
    But that certainly doesn't seem to be the game that rival Kyle Busch wants to play here.
   In fact Saturday's 500 could easily be another Kyle Busch win.
   Johnson says he's been almost amazed by the change in his former teammate over the past few years: "I'm watching him mature and make smarter decisions on the track, and still running in an aggressive manner.
    "Before, you could count on him hitting something or someone and it was just a matter of time.
    "Now, he's not making those mistakes.
     "I've seen him even in the Nationwide car  -- where he probably has less to lose in the scheme of things -- have something go wrong and then drive his way through traffic, and the right side doesn't have a mark on it and the bumper hasn't been used.
    "That's not the Kyle of three years ago.
    "Unfortunately for us he's getting smarter.
    "The impressive thing is that he still has his aggressive driving style, but without the mistakes.
    "In some other cases you've got one or the other, and you have to pull back so far you don't have that spark. And Kyle certainly is exciting to watch, and has that spark still, without hitting things.
    "From starting off so young, and trying to grow through all of that, he's probably ahead of the curve."

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com