Don’t sound the alarm so quickly, Jimmie Johnson fans.
While the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion’s slow start to 2014 might be a cause for concern, there’s really no reason to fret. In his previous 12 Sprint Cup seasons, Johnson has won early and won late, finding success regardless of his start.
This season, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet has three top fives, five top 10s and was the runner-up to Kurt Busch at Martinsville. Yet missing from those impressive stats is a notch in the win column.
While Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led team have been fast over the course of the last few weeks, the driver admitted it was frustrating at the beginning of the season because his "cars didn’t have the speed they needed to" and that was within the No. 48 team’s control.
"We’re giving 100 percent and that’s really all you can do," Johnson said before last weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway. "We’ve learned through experience to identify with that. You can only work so many hours in the day and then in the week, and only give 100 percent. Anything more is only going to be detrimental to the team and not help things progress."
This team certainly has the experience and proven results to go off, too. With six championships and 66 career wins, Johnson has scored at least two victories in each of his previous 12 full-time seasons.
In two years — 2003 and 2005 — Johnson didn’t make an appearance in Victory Lane until the 12th race of the season. In his rookie campaign of 2002, the future champion scored his first career win in the 10th race of the season.
However, in each of his six championship campaigns, Johnson and the No. 48 team went to Victory Lane at least once in the first 10 races of the season.
So the time for concern has not arrived, there’s little doubt the No. 48 team will be a factor in this year’s championship, and Johnson remains confident the wins will come.
"I’ve been through various challenges in my Cup career and one marker I always look for is clearly fast cars and, ultimately, top-five finishes," Johnson said. "And I firmly believe that if you’re running in the top five, you’re going to have your shots at winning races. And even a step further, top threes. But our goal, since I’ve started, has been if we can run in the top five all day long, we’ll have a shot to win the race. And it’s led to a lot of victories for us."
Given their history and early-season speed, that first win of 2014 could be right around the corner.