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Jimmie: Chances Of Nailing Goals Are Slimming

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 18 2019
Jimmie Johnson said Friday that his contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2020 season. After that, he said, who knows?

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he doesn’t have a contract beyond 2020 and in reality, he probably doesn’t have five years left as a NASCAR driver.

That reality means the seven-time NASCAR champion doesn’t have as long as he once did to achieve his goals.

“This year is almost halfway through,” Johnson noted during preparations for Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star race. “Next year will be here before we know it. I’m aware of my opportunities to accomplish what I want to. There are just fewer of them left and we need to get after it.”

Johnson, who qualified eighth for this year’s All-Star race, said he expected to begin contract talks with team owner Rick Hendrick “before long.”

At the 1.5-mile Charlotte track, Johnson possesses 12 victories — four All-Star wins and four each in the Coca-Cola 600 and Bank of America 500. However, Johnson admitted after last week’s Kansas race that he no longer possessed the confidence that he once did entering Charlotte.

In the 1980s, Johnson was the driver to beat at the track located less than five miles from Hendrick Motorsports. He won five of six straight races, including three consecutive Coca-Cola 600s. Beginning with the 2002 Coca-Cola 600 and ending with the race’s 2007 version, Johnson never finished outside the top 10. He recorded top-five finishes from the 2003 Coca-Cola 600 through the 2006 Bank of America 500. His last Charlotte victory came in the 2016 Bank of America 500, and his last All-Star win occurred in 2013.

However, the overall victory drought Johnson now faces is unlike anything he has experienced since joining NASCAR’s premier series full time in 2002. Johnson’s last victory came in June 2017 at Dover and he admitted Friday it’s frustrating to “put in such an effort and you don’t get the return.”

“I was pretty frustrated when I got out of the car in Kansas,” the 43-year-old Johnson said.  “The first half or first two-thirds of the race was pretty bad. I rallied back to sixth, which was respectable. Then I realized I was in fourth and before that restart, I was hopeful our outside lane could advance and maybe have a look at a win or a second-place finish behind Eric (Jones).

“It was nice to be back in that moment, but certainly the frustration is coming through. I’ve never worked so hard to run where I do. I’ve never seen our team work so hard to not be able to get back to where we want to in a short period of time. That’s the hard part.”

Johnson noted he had been racing his entire life and he’s been through “all the ups and downs.”

“But, I’m not smart enough to quit. I’m not smart enough to walk away,” Johnson said. “I love what I do. I want to be out there racing. So, (I) just keep on digging. That’s all I can do.”

Johnson possesses 83-career victories. One more and he’s tied with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the all-time win list. That, however, hasn’t entered his mind since his winless drought began.

“It’s just about a trophy. It’s just about a checkered flag,” Johnson said.  “There really isn’t anything else with it.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 18 2019
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