Skip to content

Jimmie Johnson still winless in 2014, but isn’t fretting yet

Mar 30, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

Jimmie Johnson AP

Kurt Busch said after winning Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” referring to Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who came into the race with eight wins apiece on the .526-mile track.

With both drivers having Hendrick Motorsports power under the hood, Busch beat Johnson to prevent the six-time Sprint Cup champion from earning his ninth career win at NASCAR’s oldest Cup racetrack.

Had Johnson won, he would have overtaken HMS teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins at Martinsville by an active driver (NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty holds the all-time record with 15 wins there).

Johnson yielded the lead to Busch on lap 473, but regained it 10 laps later. With just 17 laps remaining, Johnson felt his tires going away and couldn’t hold off Busch, eventually relinquishing the lead for good with 11 laps remaining.

“Man that is all I had, that is all I could do,” Johnson said. “I got back by him and then he got back to me and I was really, really loose in the closing stages of the race.

“Once he got back to me and put the pressure to me, I couldn’t keep the back under me. I put all the front brake in it that I could and was just hoping I could hold him off, but just wasn’t able to.

Having led 296 of the race’s 500 laps, Johnson appeared headed towards yet another dominating win at Martinsville, but will have to wait again until at least this year’s fall Chase race there to get that elusive ninth win.

“This track is in the Chase, so we’ll come back a lot smarter and try to prevent running second again,” Johnson said. “You just learn from the situation.

“I’m not saying there was a mistake today, but you learn from this weekend and carry it forward. This is a brand new car and a lot of stuff to figure out, so I know in the coming months the car’s setups will be a lot different, and we’ll just keep evolving and try to prevent running second.”

It marked the first time Johnson has ever lost at Martinsville after leading more than 271 laps in the scheduled 500-lap event. Johnson ultimately led 296 laps, only to come up short and finish second.

“(I had) just a very strong race car,” Johnson said. “We unloaded off the truck fast and qualified well and had an awesome car here in the race today.

“Of course, we’re disappointed not to get to victory lane, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Man, I got back by (Busch) and I thought that we had control of the race then.

“I felt like since I hadn’t seen him through really any part of the day that he might have me on short-run speed but he would fall off. He stayed in my mirror and found a way back by me and then got a car length or so on me and did an awesome job. … I came up a little short, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

Johnson is still winless after the first six races, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned, given that he now has four top-six finishes.

“I’ve got to figure something out,” Johnson said. “Hopefully I’ll win a race soon or a championship. To be truthful, last year I felt like some (potential wins) got away that I definitely had control of and was disappointed in myself on some of that.

“Some of the stuff circumstances got me, but we left a lot of wins on the table last year for sure. Today, I couldn’t have done any more. I just got beat. You’re going to have those, too, and you’ve got to recognize when you get beat and you’ve got to recognize when you make mistakes, and today we just got beat.”

While he came so close, Johnson isn’t really fretting. A win Sunday would have been great, but there’s no shame in finishing second.

“We’re definitely in a good place, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “I think today was very representative of that.”

In addition to what he hoped would have been his ninth career Cup win at Martinsville, Johnson was also seeking to give team owner Rick Hendrick his 220th career Sprint Cup win and 22nd Cup triumph at Martinsville.

The 30th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports’ first Sprint Cup win is April 29, when Geoff Bodine gave Hendrick his first career win as an owner in just the team’s eighth race together.

“We had a very fast race car,” Johnson said. “I wish we could have gotten this for Rick’s 30th anniversary.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Big weekend for Brembo on Belle Isle

    May 29, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT

    Photo: Brembo Photo: Brembo

    Brembo busy with IndyCar, TUDOR and World Challenge this weekend.

  2. Boullier: Monaco points just the beginning for McLaren

    May 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    The team racing director refuses to get too excited about Jenson Button’s eighth-place finish in Monaco, saying it is just the start of something far bigger.

  3. Briatore: Alonso has a better future with McLaren

    May 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Flavio Briatore, his wife Elisabetta Gregoraci and son Falco attend the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Fernando Alonso’s manager confident the Spaniard was right to leave Ferrari and join McLaren for 2015.

  4. Ecclestone willing to do “whatever is needed” to revive Indian GP

    May 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of India - Race Getty Images

    Ecclestone has given the race promoters two months to make a decision on whether to revive the Indian Grand Prix or not.

  5. Defending Red Bull GRC champion Joni Wiman adjusts to “target on his back”

    May 29, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Rallycross photos © QNIGAN.COM 2014

    What’s next for Joni Wiman, the defending Red Bull Global Rallycross champion?

  6. Ricciardo relishing return to site of first F1 victory

    May 29, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 08: Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and Australia wins the Canadian F1 Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 8, 2014 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images,) Getty Images

    Ricciardo announced himself on F1’s big stage in Canada last year with the first of three victories in 2014.

  7. NHRA: 3-time Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon making most of career resurgence

    May 29, 2015, 12:35 AM EDT

    3-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon. (Photo courtesy NHRA) 3-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

    Larry Dixon is making up for lost time – in VERY fast way, that is – as in the neighborhood of 320-plus mph and less than four seconds.

  8. ARCA: From welder to race car driver, Sarah Cornett-Ching continues her building prowess

    May 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy ARCA) (Photo courtesy ARCA)

    Sarah Cornett-Ching is opening a lot of eyes in the ARCA Series this season.

  9. Red Bull GRC entry lists, event schedule for Ft. Lauderdale opener

    May 28, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    Here’s the field for this year’s Red Bull GRC season opener in Ft. Lauderdale.

  10. Surprises, struggles: NHRA at one-third mark of ’15 season

    May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    nhra logo

    With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.

  11. Coulthard: Monaco mistake could make Hamilton think twice in future races

    May 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  (L-R) Race winner Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP and third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP react on the podium following the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Ex-F1 driver ponders whether Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes may have taken a hit after his Monaco defeat.

  12. FIA seeking new teams for Formula 1 in 2016 and 2017

    May 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 18:  The German national flag flaps in the wind next to the FIA flag during practice ahead of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 18, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images) Getty Images

    FIA looking for more teams to join the sport in the next two seasons.

  13. Bottas confident Williams will bounce back in Canada

    May 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Williams Martini Racing's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas  drives at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After Williams recorded its first non-score since Brazil 2013 in Monaco, Bottas is sure that the team will respond in Montreal next weekend.

  14. Nissan to race with retro livery on Le Mans LMP1 car

    May 28, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    © Nissan NISMO © Nissan NISMO

    25 years on from Mark Blundell’s pole position at Le Mans, Nissan pays homage with a retro livery on its third car for the race.

  15. Magnussen unconcerned by Vandoorne’s success in GP2

    May 28, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and McLaren Honda waves to the fans during the drivers' parade before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Magnussen was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2014, but has hopes of recovering his seat in the future.

  16. Lotus rejects claim Grosjean brake-tested Verstappen

    May 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Verstappen 245 Getty Images

    Alan Permane claims the data on Grosjean’s car shows he did not brake-test Verstappen and cause their crash in Monaco last Sunday.