Saturday, 25 January 2020

Sting of missing playoffs motivates Johnson – NASCAR

Sting of missing playoffs motivates Johnson – NASCAR
15 Sep

LAS VEGAS – Cat Stevens was right and so was Sheryl Crow: The first cut is the deepest.

That’s the case for Jimmie Johnson, as feelings from missing the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs of his career sink in. The 10-race, 16-driver party didn’t have room on the invitation list for the seven-time champion.

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As Johnson continues to rebuild the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team alongside crew chief Cliff Daniels, the goals are set, the vision is clear and confidence is through the roof.

But that doesn’t stop the sting.

“There’s tons of excitement and optimism around that, but seeing everybody partying over there on the Strip, doing burnouts and everything, all the guys that made the playoffs, that hurt,” Johnson said. “There’s no way around it.”

The fact it’s painful to watch his competitors compete for a title without him proves the fire still burns bright. Of course, Johnson is not done yet. He just has to wait another year to fight for a record-setting eighth championship.

“I want to be a part of all that, and I should be,” Johnson said. “So, as I kind of analyze that, I’m glad it hurts. If it didn’t hurt, I think there’d be a problem.”

Adding insult to injury, all three of Johnson’s teammates are postseason bound, as Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron get ready to fight for a championship beginning with Sunday night’s NASCAR Playoffs opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriuxXM NASCAR Radio).

“I even said to my teammates in our debriefs on Tuesday congratulations and take advantage of this opportunity that you have,” Johnson said. “I’d do anything to be in your position to have a shot at an eighth championship right now.”

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Disappointment aside, Elliott thinks Johnson will be an asset for all three teams over the next 10 weeks given the experience he carries.

“I’m going to lean on him,” Elliott said. “I try to lean on him as much as I can. I wish I was racing him to be a part of it as well, but I know how the kind of guy he is and the reason he’s a seven-time champion is because of the attitude he carries and I know he’s going to find the silver lining in it somewhere.

“I know that’s hard to find and it may not be this week and it may not be next week, but I know he’s going to find it at some point, and I expect he’ll come back stronger.”



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