Daytona 500 win has Johnson hungry for more
FEB 27, 2013 1:07p ET
Maybe Daytona 500 win No. 2, which Johnson accomplished Sunday in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, can spark the same kind of roll.
Johnson's whirlwind week after the victory stopped Wednesday at the House of Blues in Dallas for an event with fans. And while Johnson wasn't exactly sure what day of the week it was, his focus was squarely on the 2013 season.
He's just not sure the 500 victory is a signal of what's to come.
"We're feel like we're going to start the season at the top of the class, and we're excited about that," Johnson said. "Plate racing is so different than what it takes to win the championship. You've got to make the Chase, and that's all on downforce tracks. You get into the Chase, and you've got one plate-race track vs. nine other downforce tracks. You can turn it in some directions. I have seen some teams and drivers win the 500, and you see four or five months later they haven't had such a great year. There's some type of hangover from the 500. Or it can be a springboard."
Johnson, who has gone a whopping two full seasons without a title, is hoping to avoid the hangover. Given everything that's happened since Sunday, however, one could almost expect one this week as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Arizona.
Johnson celebrated the win Sunday with his teammates, including their own version of the Harlem Shake. Monday he was at the ESPN studios. Tuesday he was in New York, doing media events and appearing on David Letterman. He's leaving Dallas on Wednesday for Los Angeles and will end the night in Las Vegas before heading back to Los Angeles on Thursday.
And there's still that little thing this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, where Johnson will compete in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races. Not that Johnson has given the upcoming weekend a lot of thought yet.
"It hasn't been on my mind at all," said Johnson, who had his contract with Lowe's extended Wednesday through the 2015 season. "We've been so occupied and busy. Tuesday is normally the day I download with my team and talk (about) what happened at the races, and then we move forward and prepare for (the) upcoming event. Then we go through that same thing with our teammates, their crew chiefs and the race engineers. I missed all of that yesterday, so I feel a little removed and not really in the space to go racing in Phoenix. It's for a good reason."
Johnson isn't the only person involved with NASCAR hoping to ride momentum from the Daytona 500. Despite the horrific crash in Saturday's Nationwide race, the event was a resounding success.
Not only did the five-time Cup champion win the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. Danica Patrick started on the pole and had a top-10 finish. All of that helped lead to the highest-rated 500 broadcast since 2006.
"In the end, it was a very good weekend for NASCAR," Johnson said. "The incident on Saturday, I don't want to make light of that, it was such a frightening moment. I think the Gen-6 car, Danica's hype and involvement is ever-present and awesome. I think Dale Jr.'s finish of second and the 1-2 for Hendrick, our win — there's a lot of good storylines."
While it's been a busy week for Johnson, that doesn't mean he's not taking time to savor what happened. He's one of 10 drivers to win at Daytona more than once. When he won in 2006, he didn't know what to expect.
Now Johnson, who finished 42nd at Daytona last year and struggled at restrictor-plate tracks recently, is taking more time to relish the victory because he knows how tough it is to win.
"I feel like I'm more mature today," he said. "I can appreciate this moment a lot more than in '06. A lot has changed. It's a much different world for me."
Different world, yes, but the ultimate goal is the same for Johnson.
"I'm very proud of the things I've accomplished, the trophies I've collected and the championships I've won," said Johnson, who finished third in last year's points standings. "They mean the world to me. But I'm not satisfied. I want more of the same. My hunger is there today as it was when I was younger."
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