SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson did not have the type of regular season to which he and the No. 48 have grown accustomed.
But that doesn’t mean the group is any less confident after making the 16-driver playoffs, which begin next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We have a lot of experience. I think our experience in pressure-packed situations will help us and hopefully help us get where we need to, but we do need speed,” Johnson acknowledged. “We still have 10 weeks left to find some speed.”
Breaking down the layout of the 10-race playoffs, Johnson said the first real wildcard will be the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which caps off the first round. Prior to that, he said the No. 48 team has been solid at Las Vegas, and after testing at Richmond Raceway earlier this season, he’s excited to take on that race.
“Hopefully we’re good and smart and we can get through at least on points in that first round,” he said. “Second round has Dover in it, third round has Martinsville – I hope to be able to win at Dover, win at Martinsville, set me up for Homestead. That would be the easiest path for me – I won my championship in ’16 that way. We’ll see how it goes. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of work to get to there.”
This week, Johnson said he and his teammates will be hard at work to be ready for Las Vegas after closing the regular season with a 16th-place finish in the Brickyard 400.
He recognizes that the No. 48 team is entering the postseason a little under the radar, which is certainly different for the seven-time champion.
“Unfortunately, I think that nobody’s really worried about us right now, and you can look at that either as a good thing or a bad thing,” he said. “We haven’t been leading laps and we haven’t been a threat up front. It’s amazing how quick the garage area changes. So, if we can run up front two, three weeks in a row and send that message back, I think we have more range when we start hitting on all eight (cylinders) again and we can put pressure on people.
“People will know that we’re coming with a head of steam and what we’re capable of. I just hope we can get that magic going and really start threatening everybody.”