Iconic NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson looks to bounce back from winless 2018 – Boston Herald

Jimmie Johnson’s bearded face options a couple of more grey hairs than throughout his final visit to Daytona Worldwide Speedway.

Going winless for the primary time during 17 seasons racing in the Cup collection will do that a driver who has turn into NASCAR’s gold commonplace.

Now hungrier than ever before, the 43-yr-previous isn’t taking his foot off the fuel for a second despite 83 victories, seven season championships and more than $one hundred fifty million in profession earnings.

“It’s just a type of character-building years,” Johnson stated. “It hasn’t modified my want to compete. My want to win and compete is stronger than it’s ever been.

“Hopefully we get some results this yr.”

Johnson has been making trips to Victory Lane and chasing data pretty much from the time he climbed into his now-acquainted No. 48 automotive. He enters 2019 in an unfamiliar position but with a unique look as he takes one other crack at a report eighth title.

Johnson has a new crew chief and sponsor after breaking up with longtime crew chief Chad Knaus and dropping sponsor Lowe’s amid NASCAR’s reputation decline. Each Knaus and Lowe’s have been synonymous with the driving force’s historic run of success.

The impression of those strikes will unfold through the coming months, but Johnson is off to a promising start to the season.

On Sunday, Johnson’s automotive completed third amongst 42 during qualifying rounds — missing out by a spot on the front row for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Later, Johnson captured a rain-shortened Conflict that was shrouded in controversy when his tried cross of Paul Menard resulted in an epic crash, taking out a lot of the 20-automotive subject.

Johnson provided no apologies for his aggressive driving despite finger-pointing from runner-up Kurt Busch.

“So he needs the trophy,” Johnson quipped. “I’d politic if I was him, too. Why not?”

As an alternative, Johnson targeted on the positives from a day that ended together with his automotive intact and displaying loads of velocity.

“Just a nice day,” he stated. “Builds confidence for myself and the workforce, and hopefully we will get it accomplished once more next weekend. Great option to begin.”

Sunday definitely was a change from a yr ago.

Johnson returned for Daytona 500 preparations 12 months after a crash-crammed Speedweeks that saw him complete three automobiles.

“I went again and watched all of the movies,” he stated. “I didn’t understand what number of automobiles I tore up out here.”

Things on the monitor not often would improve as Johnson cracked the top 5 just twice. This from a driver who had posted more than 10 prime-5 finishes ever yr from 2003-16.

“At the time you just chalk it as much as restrictor-plate racing — bummer solution to start the yr,” he stated. “But then there’s Atlanta, there’s Phoenix, right? Little did I know it was some foreshadowing a very challenging 2018.”

Today, Johnson feels reinvigorated.

After a lot success teaming with Knaus, he has loved working with new crew chief Kevin Meendering, though Johnson needs makes it clear he and Knaus stay close.

“We have been just at his house final weekend visiting his wife and his son and hanging out with our two women,” Johnson stated. “It’s a transition for both of us, and we’re both working by way of it on the professional aspect. But the private aspect, we’ve been nice associates for a very long time.

“Both of us need to ensure that our friendship is one that lasts a lifetime.”

The bond between Johnson and Lowe’s was just as fruitful. But Ally’s palms-on previous-faculty strategy reminds Johnson of sponsors in the course of the sport’s heyday.

“Their dedication to our sport and this workforce is so 2000, late ‘90s, which is superb,” he stated. “Their pleasure, their participation in advertising, activation — they’re not just placing a paint job on a automotive and letting it roll across the monitor. That’s what happened again in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

“Not only did corporations are available and have the relationship with the race automotive, however they received involved with the race tracks, the fans … the activation piece was a cornerstone of their success.”

Now it is Johnson’s time to show back the clock. He definitely exhibits few indicators of slowing down.

Previous to qualifying Sunday, Johnson took half in the Daytona Seashore Half Marathon, ending tops in the 40-44 age group and 14th general with a time of 1:34.18.

“The headwind right down to the seashore was a bit more than desired,” he stated. “However outdoors of that, it was a superb day.”

Johnson has faced his share of headwinds these days. Like he did Sunday, Johnson plans to return out the other aspect a winner.

“I feel it never ends. At the very least for myself, I challenge myself to evolve via my life,” he stated. “Hopefully, I stay to be ninety or one hundred and I nonetheless need to be challenging myself personally and professionally then. That is just part of the journey of life.”

©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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