Is Jimmie Johnson ready to make a charge in the Chase?

Jimmie Johnson on track during practice at Michigan (Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson on track during practice at Michigan (Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson on track during practice at Michigan (Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Jimmie Johnson was looking for a glimmer of hope, and he found it in Friday afternoon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Michigan International Speedway.

No, Johnson didn’t win the pole for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN). That distinction went to Joey Logano. But Johnson ran second in the knockout session, and what’s more important, the six-time champion and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates outshined the entries from Joe Gibbs Racing, the dominant organization in the series this year.

“I do believe we’re showing signs (of improvement),” Johnson said. “And I’m living it, so I guess I’m looking for those little signs and rays of light and maybe others don’t see it. And I really try hard not to BS you guys when you ask the questions.

“But I could say in the last couple of months, we have seen some bright spots. We just need a little more consistency with it; and then most importantly, stop making mistakes. I’m part of that as well.”

Johnson won twice in the first five events of the season, at Atlanta and Fontana, but since then he has posted only four top-five finishes. Then again, racing in the summer hasn’t been one of Johnson’s strong suits.

“I’ve been able to win championships having a slow summer, which most of my summers have been slow,” Johnson said. “And then there’s a few where we were quick through them.

“When you think of the tracks that we race on during the summer months, although they are very challenging and aerodynamics do come into play, they’re not your traditional 1.5-miles and they’re really not a lot like the tracks we race on during the Chase. And, they’re not my best tracks. My best tracks really are during those final 10 events.”

Though one qualifying session doesn’t establish a trend, it was enough to give Johnson’s confidence a significant boost.

“Past history shows when you get hot, you can stay hot,” he said. “We hope we’re heating up and on the verge of getting hot.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.