If it came down to a duel between him and Chase Elliott at Talladega, Jimmie Johnson says he’s “here to win the race.”
Speaking to the media this afternoon at Kansas Speedway, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet if he would be Elliott’s “wingman” next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway or if there were things he could do to help him advance into the Round of 8.
“I think from an on-track standpoint Talladega is about the only place I could help him and could work with him,” Johnson said. “We want to win the race here and do all that we can and if we can’t of course we want the No. 24 to. They need to have a great day, but if there is a [duel] at the end of the race between us and the No. 24 I’m here to win the race.”
Despite a strong run by the driver of the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet, he was caught up in a restart wreck with 76 laps to go in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and finds himself 10th in points needing to race his way into eighth before the checkered flag flies at Talladega.
Despite this, Johnson isn’t going to just move over for his teammate and will race him for the win. He also added that the 24 team knows this.
“I know for a fact Chase and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) would expect us to do that,” he added. “So, there is not much we can do here other than the prep that we’ve had leading into this week and how awesome our teams have been working together and the ground we’ve covered in a short period of time. That element is still there, still going on. We have all been leaning on each other tremendously, so that will also be there, but come race time we still have to race. Talladega is probably the one place I can help him.”
The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion led a race high of 155 laps on his way to ending a 24-race winless streak (the longest of his career) with a victory in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s the first time he’s advanced past the Round of 12 in the elimination format of the Chase.
Combined with Elliott’s 103 laps led at Charlotte, Hendrick Motorsports has led over 500 laps in the four Chase races this season. In the 26-race regular season, the organization led a combined total of under 500.
Johnson was also asked if the speed the four Hendrick Motorsports cars has shown in the Chase has been surprising.
“I wouldn’t say surprising,” he said. “It’s tough because we try to show our optimism through interviews and social posts that we might make. I think if you look back over the course of the last few months our comments have all been directionally optimistic and been building speed. To not close on a couple events that we led a lot of laps at at the start of the Chase I think that finally showed everybody that we weren’t just ‘bs’ing’ them and that we really did have the speed. To us it was frustrating that we didn’t close and we didn’t execute like we needed to. Then Charlotte we did so. So, for the No. 48 team that has kind of been the progression and the way things have gone. It was real nice to have a clean, solid race in Charlotte and get the win.”