Jimmie Johnson doesn’t back down. The winner of six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, Johnson knows how to go all in and race with a purpose. He and crew chief Chad Knaus are regarded as the greatest duo in the sport’s history, resting at the pinnacle of efficiency.
So why did he go winless in the beginning of the season? What could shake such concrete confidence?
Johnson had surgery on a hernia during the off-season. This information, which was previously unknown, revealed itself in a sit-down discussion with Darrell Waltrip for NASCAR on FOX’s coverage. It also got in the way of testing sessions. The fact this remained a secret for so long is remarkable, yet it’s even more telling. A precisely-tuned athlete, having that surgery most likely threw Johnson off. He had to relearn how to be comfortable in the car, and it reminded him he isn’t bulletproof. With his mind in a different realm, the results weren’t there.
It only took one race to light the fire again. Johnson won the Coca Cola 600 and “finally showed up to the party,” as many phrased it.
Now, another win at Dover International Speedway proves that he’s back. The dominating performance surprised no one, and it gave him the title of most laps led at the track. After the news of the surgery came out, everything clicked into place, like his concrete confidence did in Delaware.
Speaking of concrete, some of it came up as the race went on. Johnson mentioned he saw the breakage on his way to the driver’s meeting, and Kevin Harvick also noticed the issue. Unfortunately, Jamie McMurray was at the mercy of its wrath, hitting the chunk and stunning his car. The No. 1 team rebounded for a thirteenth-place finish, a beautiful sight after the pot hole incident.
Kyle Busch was on his way to completing The Sweep; after winning both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events, Busch led early and was running consistently when he was sent into the wall by Clint Bowyer. Bowyer’s spotter said he was clear, so it was his fault. Busch was upset and attempted to go after the No. 15; he cooled down and went to the garage, then headed to his motorcoach.
After overcoming a silent yet telling adversity, Johnson is finally hitting his stride and showing his muscle. If he keeps this up, there’s no question he’ll be a heavy-hitter in The Chase.
Point Standings after the Fedex 400
1. Matt Kenseth (–)
2. Jeff Gordon (-2)
3. Carl Edwards (-25)
4. Jimmie Johnson (-27)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-34)
6. Joey Logano (-49)
7. Kyle Busch (-52)
8. Brad Keselowski (-59)
9. Denny Hamlin (-84)
10. Kyle Larson (-86)
11. Ryan Newman (-89)
12. Kevin Harvick (-90)
13. Brian Vickers (-97)
14. Paul Menard (-101)
15. Austin Dillon (-105)
16. Greg Biffle (-106)