FONTANA, Calif. -- It's been an interesting start to the 2018 season for Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team.
Following a string of bad luck during Daytona Speedweeks, circumstances have continued to plague the team throughout the first four races of the NASCAR Cup Series circuit.
Johnson has yet to log a top-10 finish, his best result of the season so far being a 12th-place result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I feel it’s more of a carryover from last year," Johnson said Friday afternoon prior to first practice at Fontana. "I’m fighting very similar issues that I did have last year. Yes, we are still sorting out a new car and some new rules, so I think we will continue to evolve that side of it from an aero standpoint, but I feel there is a little more to it than just that. We’re working hard."
The 2017 season proved to be one of Johnson's toughest in his then 17-year career, following up his 2016 championship-winning season by logging just three wins, four top-five finishes and 11 top-10s.
Johnson feels as though the No. 48 team is headed in the right direction, although the progress may be a bit slower than in the past.
"We’ve been chipping away at things and of course would love to look at a win and capitalize on opportunities there," the driver said. "We hopefully will have a very strong day today and be inside the top 10 solidly and hopefully can run there throughout the course of the race and come that last pit stop, be in the running."
However, the California native said the team is keeping their goals "realistic."
"There isn’t a magic button or an easy button to this that’s all of a sudden going to put us back in our dominant ways," Johnson explained. "We need to methodically chip away at this and make our cars better and better and execute from the start of a race to the end of a race from where I sit inside the car to what happens on pit road, and race strategy and all that."
As the series races at the track where Johnson claimed his first career Cup win, Johnson has no doubt the Lowe's for Pros team will wind up back in Victory Lane soon.
"Yes, I want to win," Johnson said. "I want to win right now. But realistically we need to just keep improving week after week. Once we get in the top five on a regular basis, wins are right around the corner.”
It was also announced Wednesday that Lowe’s Companies Inc., which has been the No. 48 team’s only primary sponsor since 2001, will not return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2019.
In 2017, Johnson signed a three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports and when asked today if the announcement would lead him to step away from the sport early, the driver was quick to express his desire to continue racing.
“I guess maybe it’s the eternal optimist that I am," Johnson said. "I have more to do and I enjoy the process and Hendrick (Motorsports) is home and retirement hasn’t been on my mind. I want to win. I want to win an eighth championship. But I guess at the end of the day it’s really my desire to compete and to compete at a high level. I’m not done yet.”