July 17, 2011
Generally when you get a pit-road penalty and end up finishing fifth, you're feeling pretty good about your race, right? And that's why you're not Jimmie Johnson, my friend.
After Sunday's Loudon race, in which the 48 team overcame wounds both external and self-inflicted to notch yet another strong finish at a Chase track, Johnson was uncharacteristically blunt. He's not happy with either his own pit crew or Juan Pablo Montoya, and he let fly with his feelings afterward.
"When it's key times for stops, we have mistakes," he said. "I've been real patient all year trying to build. I'm running out of patience. I care for these guys deeply for going over the wall and I know they're very talented guys, but we're getting into my livelihood in a little bit when we get into this Chase and we've got to be right."
He kept on: "We've been working and we've been patient as a group trying to mature some guys and get some stuff ready, but we can't have these mistakes any more," he said. "We're getting way too close to the Chase. We need to be right."
We've talked before in this space about how Johnson and Knaus may be playing with fire in their every-job-on-the-line-every-week approach, and it seems to be hitting home now. One lug nut penalty, as was assessed Sunday, isn't a big deal in and of itself. But when it's happening every week, when every pit stop becomes a what-happens-now? adventure, clearly it's time to rethink strategies.
Of course, the 48 team's problems aren't entirely of its own making. Johnson had a few words for Juan Pablo Montoya: "The 42, I don't think the three times he's wrecked me it's been intentional, but he's all out of mulligans," he said. "I've had enough of "Oh, I'm sorry' and you're spun out. It's happened way too often for the 48."
Frustration? Sure. But this is an uncharacteristically rattled Johnson, one we haven't seen before. As last year showed, when he's singularly focused he's able to run down anyone. But with his attention diverted, well ... it's possible that the only team capable of beating the 48 is the 48, and right now, that's exactly what's happening.
Johnson "running out of patience" with his team & Montoya [Landmark Newspapers]
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