Coke Zero 400: Jimmie Johnson: Restarts are not in my head


Mishaps on restarts have potentially cost Jimmie Johnson a pair of victories. As a result he’s changing his approach beginning this weekend at Daytona.

In recent weeks Jimmie Johnson has committed noticeable gaffes on restarts at Dover and Kentucky, and in both instances it cost the NASCAR driver potential victories.

As a result, the five-time Sprint Cup champion is changing how he approaches restarts vowing to "lighten up."

"I know the rule," Johnson said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. "I feel like I'm maybe a little focused on the way the rule reads exactly and paying maybe too close of attention to that."

There are some who believe Johnson is thinking too much about restarts and the issue may be in his head. It's a notion he disagrees with.

"I'm not smart enough to let it get in my head," he said laughing. "So we are fine there. There is not much between these ears."

Johnson's problems began last month at Dover when he jumped a restart with 19 laps remaining and was subsequently penalized. Afterward he was critical of NASCAR and how officials enforced and interrupted the rules regarding restarts.

His issues continued last week at Kentucky. While running second, Johnson accused leader Matt Kenseth of not maintaining proper speed as the two entered the restart zone. His slow start allowed the field to close behind him and Johnson spun entering Turn 1.

"There are a lot of restarts, especially during the Kentucky race that I brought down that I feel like a good citizen, a good student in doing exactly what I'm supposed to," Johnson said. "There are other times when I don't feel that exactly happens and that it's not called on or viewed from the tower as kind of the rule reads.

"At the end of the day I'm just going to lighten up on how I think about it and use that zone and that area regardless of the way the rule reads to get an advantage and worry about myself."

Kenseth understands Johnson's frustration losing a race he probably would have won otherwise. But he also maintains he was not going excessively slow and Johnson's downfall was his own fault.

"Since Dover at least, I think Jimmie's been very frustrated with restarts," Kenseth said. "And I think last weekend he just didn't have good restarts. For whatever reason, his car wouldn't restart fast. We've all had cars like that."

Going forward Johnson contends he will approach restarts differently.

"At the end of the day it doesn't matter how I interpret the rule, it's how it's enforced," Johnson said. "That is the thing that I'm trying to focus on now. It doesn't matter how I read it, what I think.

"Clearly the way I've felt a few things have gone are different than the way it's enforced. The way it's enforced is all that matters. That is where I'm focusing now."

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