CONCORD, N.C.—Jeff Gordon has been fast all season long. Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up his pace last week at Kansas and was the fastest car on the track before he hit the Turn 4 wall.
But Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson still hasn’t found the extra edge that could propel his No. 48 Chevrolet to the front of the field. Uncharacteristically, seven races have passed since Johnson last led a lap.
“We’re just not where we want to be,” Johnson said on Friday at Charlotte. “We’re working very hard to get there. This sport is not forgiving. What you’ve accomplished in the past doesn’t buy you a damn thing for the present. You have to go out there and earn it and make the most of it.
“We’ve been a third- to fifth-place car, and we can finish there and run there, but we haven’t been a dominant car. We’re certainly hoping that, when we come to tracks that have been very good for the No. 48, that we’re able to find that little bit—find that extra 10th (of a second) that (can) put us in that position and get our mojo going the right way.”
Even though Johnson dominated the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May, he feels the technology of the Gen-6 cars has advanced significantly since the spring.
“We feel like, if we came back with the May setup in the car, we’d probably be two or three more tenths off,” Johnson said. “It seems that we’re taking track records down by a couple of 10ths, even from a spring race to a fall race…
“You don’t have a chance to sit still in this sport. You have to keep moving and progressing your race cars.”