(Johnson is determined to bring the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet back to title contention)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson's title run coming to an end last season definitely registered with the five-time Sprint Cup champion.
Johnson is still smarting from what he considers a disappointing effort in 2011 that saw his impressive streak of championships run out.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver says he learned a lot from the effort of a year ago and has spent the off-season figuring out how to come back even stronger.
“I didn’t realize that over the five years or six years that we didn’t change as much maybe as we needed to and evolve," Johnson said during Thursday's Daytona Media Day. "It’s tough to leave a successful road map and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and the team and I have been good at reinventing ourselves each year. But until the streak was broken looking back at this off season what we have been through and trying to rebuild the team and make sure we are looking at everything we can, we have a different depth. I’m focusing on my interaction with the team, how I provide information with the team, what information I’m looking at, there are a lot of things I haven’t done in the past and I felt like I was one of the most in depth drivers out there.
"I’m trying to even take that steps further now, so because of the loss we have been able to dig deeper and get away from the road map we’ve built and challenge ourselves more. At the same time the garage area has been extremely focused on everything the No. 48 car has done over the last six years, so maybe years three or four a lot of guys came out direction and really paid attention to what we were doing and they caught us and we got beat. We have to reinvent ourselves in some ways this year and we are ready for it.”
Johnson believes starting the year on a positive note will go a long way in helping re-establish himself as a title contender this season. However he also understands the difference between Speedweeks, the Daytona 500 and then the rest of the grueling season so is not putting too much pressure on himself or the team.
But of course Johnson will still be gunning hard for a win a week from Sunday.
“Yeah, it’s important, I look at the Daytona 500 as we are only here to win the race if we finish fifth, sure the points are nice, but I like a lot of others will do anything to win this race even if it means a last lap crash and you finish 40th," said Johnson. "Once we get out of this race, then a quick start, I think means a lot. It reflects on the off season and what the teams have done there.
"Anytime you can get points in your back pocket and start separating yourself from tenth or win a race or two to fix that wild card scenario and try to lock yourself in. It makes you sleep better. Nobody likes to go to Richmond stressing about that race. That mindset starts at Phoenix and you really start thinking about things then. The [Daytona] 500 it is the biggest race we have so you’re going to do anything and everything you can to win it.”
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