MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – You might think Jimmie Johnson would try to put the prospect of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title out of his mind—at least until the Ford EcoBoost 400 (Nov. 20 on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET) concludes on Sunday night.
You’d be wrong.
But that doesn’t mean Johnson’s focus won’t be on the matters at hand as he tries to equal the iconic mark set by NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“No, not at all,” Johnson said, when asked if he’d prefer to forget allure of a seventh championship. “I’m not running from it. “I’m not hiding from it. It’s just truthfully right now for me to do my job and the preparation and all the stuff that goes into racing and being competitive, it’s just not top of mind.
“I mean, yes, the championship is, but it’s more about winning the race. I’m more focused on winning the race, trying to qualify on pole, understand in the middle of the day what I need for the car to do, come dusk and when the sun sets.
“I’ve been so caught up in notes and videos and talking setups and pouring through data and all of that stuff that the seven is there, I’m happy to talk about it. I don’t know what else to add to it, and I am just all in trying to win the race, in that mind-set.
Given time to reflect, though, Johnson clearly understands the magnitude of the potential accomplishment.
“I know that I’m as close to this opportunity as I’ve ever been, but I’m not climbing in that car Sunday saying, ‘I’ve got to win seven,’” Johnson said. “I’m saying, I’ve got to win a championship. It’s my own personal thing that I want to do… I’m ready to go to war with these guys. We’re fired up.
“Of course, I would love to tie them, without a doubt. And the question has been asked a lot, and we start each year, could this be the year, and as we’ve transferred through the rounds, I’ve had to answer the question, and it’s something that I guess I’ve learned to embrace, and I’m honored to have this opportunity.
“It would be a massive honor to join Petty and Earnhardt, without a doubt. And I hope that I can do that someday. If it’s not this year, we’ll be back next year, and we’re going to try again.”