Jimmie Johnson, arguably the best stock car driver to come out of California, is on the threshold of history. He won his seventh NASCAR championship last season to put him in a tie with Richard Petty and the late Dale Eanhardt for the most in series history.
The El Cajon driver is looking forward to the 2017 season. He’s among the favorites to finish atop the points race and break the logjam at the top.
“That’s a great opportunity; I’m excited to have this opportunity,” Johnson said during media day this week for Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500. “At the same time, there’s so much racing between now and Homestead and the fact that we have to qualify for the playoffs and then stay alive in the playoffs helps take pressure off of me and our organization to do that right now.”
NASCAR has changed plenty for the upcoming season. Unlike the past, early- season race winners will not be able to essentially take the rest of the campaign off knowing they have a playoff spot. Under the Monster Energy Series format, drivers will attempt to secure as many playoff points during the 26-race regular season by winning race stages and the event.
If that wasn’t enough, the Top 10 after the 26 races will get additional playoff points. That creates many opportunities, but also plenty of pressure.
“So we’ll just go racing and see what happens,” Johnson said. “I honestly … have nothing to be ashamed of in my career, and I feel like I only have upside potential with more race wins and hopefully shots at championships, so I’m not going to put pressure on myself to worry about eight.
“If we get it, it’ll be one heck of a party. But until then, we’re going to have fun still.”
The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver also revealed a change in his lifestyle. He and his family spent the offseason in Colorado.
“We’ll be back to Charlotte in May. I grew up outdoors quite a bit,” he said. “Through our adult lives so far, we’ve been pretty busy and…