Skip to content

Jimmie Johnson happy for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘awesome start’ in 2014

Mar 8, 2014, 12:27 PM EST

AP Photo/Terry Renna AP Photo/Terry Renna

Jimmie Johnson has seen a big change in Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season, particularly in confidence.

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But Junior isn’t withdrawn or quiet any longer, much of which Johnson credits to Steve Letarte, Earnhardt’s crew chief.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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Long: Journey for Wendell Scott’s family ends with a kiss (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:23 AM EST

    Credit: ISC Archives Credit: ISC Archives

    Wendell Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame completed a long journey for his family.

  2. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR Gridiron Challenge pres. by Toyota at 10 p.m. ET

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    NASCARGridiron

    CLICK HERE for stream links to the special event involving former NFL greats and NASCAR drivers.

  3. NASCAR AMERICA: Wendell Scott Jr. – My father knew he would be recognized one day (VIDEO)

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Credit: ISC Archives Credit: ISC Archives

    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.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR Hall of Fame special and induction ceremony at 7 p.m. ET

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    NASCAR Hall of Fame Grand Opening Getty Images

    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.

  5. NASCAR AMERICA: 1-on-1 with the King – and Hall of Famer – Richard Petty (VIDEO)

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EST

    (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) Getty Images

    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.

  6. A day later, Brazil Indy cancellation leaves more questions than answers

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg - Day 3 Getty Images

    Brasilia cancellation provides the latest chapter in the roller coaster ride that has been IndyCar’s international dalliance.

  7. Bowman to drive No. 7 car for Tommy Baldwin Racing

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:05 PM EST

    Bank of America 500 - Qualifying Bank of America 500 - Qualifying

    Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 2015 season, replacing Michael Annett, who left for a ride at Scott Motorsports.

  8. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA from the Hall of Fame red carpet at 4:30 p.m. ET

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    nascar hall logo

    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.

  9. Hulkenberg heading into 2015 under less pressure

    Jan 30, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    2015 will be the first year that Hulkenberg has raced in F1 for two straight years with the same team.

  10. Filippi gets his chance; JR awaits his next opportunity

    Jan 30, 2015, 3:18 PM EST

    Mike Conway AP

    Luca Filippi gets the opportunity several coveted, and will now have the chance to seize.

  11. Ferrari junior Marciello set for busy 2015, balancing Sauber and GP2 commitments

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    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.

  12. Marcus Ericsson hoping for points in sophomore F1 season

    Jan 30, 2015, 1:45 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Brazil - Previews Getty Images

    With Sauber, the Swede hopes he can continue to develop and make up for a difficult rookie year with Caterham.

  13. IndyCar: Marco Andretti is both paying it forward, and set for another number change

    Jan 30, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    MarioMarco Getty Images

    Marco Andretti set for a new number while Andretti Autosport continues to sort out the rest of its IndyCar lineup.

  14. Toyota to return to the World Rally Championship in 2017

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EST

    © Toyota © Toyota

    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.

  15. NASCAR Media Tour Content Recap: All posts, one place

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    NMTrecap Getty Images

    A full download of all posts from NASCAR Media Tour on NBCSports.com.

  16. Ricciardo ready for new chapter at Red Bull post-Vettel (VIDEO)

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    Ricciardo Kvyat 30-1 Getty Images

    Australian driver does not feel under any added pressure in 2015 despite appearing to be the new team leader.

  17. Gridiron Challenge: NASCAR drivers take football stars for a spin (VIDEO)

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    HinesWard AP

    First video from Gridiron Challenge now up, in advance of the full event set to air tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  18. IMSA: Wayne Taylor Racing moved to rear of P class for drive-time violation

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:51 AM EST

    Roar Before the Rolex 24 Getty Images

    The No. 10 WTR Corvette DP reclassified to last in P after drive-time violation at Rolex 24 at Daytona.

  19. Raikkonen confident Ferrari is heading in the right direction

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:45 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    After a miserable 2014, Raikkonen hopes that the new season and a new car will bring better fortunes for Ferrari.

More from NASCAR America

Elliott: 'Common bond' unites inductees
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1448)
  2. C. Elliott (1402)
  3. K. Larson (1194)
  4. J. McMurray (1057)
  5. A. Almirola (932)