Mar 8, 2014, 12:27 PM EST
When things weren’t going so well for Earnhardt in his early tenure at Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson would notice who Junior would withdraw and quietly lament his lack of success, particularly wins.
“I feel that and we are all guilty of it, when things aren’t rolling well and you go multiple races without winning or seasons whatever it might be,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of people look within and kind of shut down and get quiet. I certainly feel like Junior is in that category and maybe more so than a lot of people.
“Just guessing that pressure from fans, pressure that he puts on himself, pressure of his father’s success – a lot of those elements weigh on him heavy and heavier than what a lot of other drivers deal with. Getting to know him so well now, being in the same shop, I could see that effect on him and I have always tried to lighten things up and try to help keep him open and having fun.”
But Junior isn’t withdrawn or quiet any longer, much of which Johnson credits to Steve Letarte, Earnhardt’s crew chief.
“Steve Letarte is greatly responsible for keeping him open and having fun,” Johnson said. “When stuff is not right, Steve does a nice job of, ‘Hey this sucked, let’s move on and do something different.’ That has worked very well for him and has kept his confidence high.”
Johnson said his HMS teammate is as excited and confident as he’s ever seen him, especially after winning the season-opening Daytona 500 and finishing runner-up last week at Phoenix.
“The last couple of races certainly show where his confidence is and what comes with it,” Johnson said. “I can say that throughout all of last year, and even into part of the season the year before were when things really started turning around for him. That success leads to confidence.
“That circle started and they have been building ever since and we have all seen it in his stats and performance. This year he is off to an awesome start.”
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Jan 31, 2015, 12:23 AM EST
Wendell Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame completed a long journey for his family.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:44 PM EST
Five NASCAR legends achieve the sport’s highest honor.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to the special event involving former NFL greats and NASCAR drivers.
Jan 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
The son of NASCAR’s first African-American winner of a premier series race talks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Marty Snider about his father’s accomplishments.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to tonight’s NBCSN coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EST
Petty, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of inductees, speaks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Kelli Stavast before tonight’s Class of 2015 ceremonies.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:00 PM EST
Brasilia cancellation provides the latest chapter in the roller coaster ride that has been IndyCar’s international dalliance.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:05 PM EST
Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 2015 season, replacing Michael Annett, who left for a ride at Scott Motorsports.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Coming up today: Live interviews and red carpet arrivals for tonight’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony; a closer look at the careers of all five inductees; Gridiron Challenge preview.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
2015 will be the first year that Hulkenberg has raced in F1 for two straight years with the same team.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:18 PM EST
Luca Filippi gets the opportunity several coveted, and will now have the chance to seize.
Jan 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
He is widely touted as being one of the brightest talents on the cusp of F1, but 2015 will be a big year for Raffaele Marciello.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:45 PM EST
With Sauber, the Swede hopes he can continue to develop and make up for a difficult rookie year with Caterham.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:15 PM EST
Marco Andretti set for a new number while Andretti Autosport continues to sort out the rest of its IndyCar lineup.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
After boldly stating in 1999 that “all that can be achieved has been achieved”, Toyota will return to the WRC upon the next regulation change.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
A full download of all posts from NASCAR Media Tour on NBCSports.com.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:30 AM EST
Australian driver does not feel under any added pressure in 2015 despite appearing to be the new team leader.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
First video from Gridiron Challenge now up, in advance of the full event set to air tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:51 AM EST
The No. 10 WTR Corvette DP reclassified to last in P after drive-time violation at Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM EST
After a miserable 2014, Raikkonen hopes that the new season and a new car will bring better fortunes for Ferrari.
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