BRISTOL, Tenn. — In the midst of the longest winless streak of his career (yes, he knows, he doesn’t need to be reminded), Jimmie Johnson is taking a different approach.
To social media, that is.
Johnson’s timeline has included an inspirational quote from former baseball great Babe Ruth in recent weeks.
Johnson hasn’t suddenly become a fan of Ruth, it’s more of a coincidence.
“Google search is my friend,’’ Johnson said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway of how he found the quote.
Johnson admits he’s taking a different approach while in a 30-race winless streak. He and his Hendrick Motorsports team have struggled for months. Johnson has one top-10 finish in his last 13 races, dating back to last season. He has not led a lap this season.
His lack of success has given social media trolls ammunition against Johnson, who is taking a different approach in how he responds.
“I’ve had a fun approach in the past of finding trolls and singling them out,’’ Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Man, there’s enough damn negativity in the world, I’m going to take a little shift on it,’ and thought it would be best to find some inspirational quotes to kind of reflect where I’m at and what’s going on.
“I think that’s been a more mature approach in a sense. I’ve just been trying to project positive vibes instead of falling into the trap of negativity.’’
Johnson said he understands the questions about he and his team while they’ve struggled.
“We have high expectations for ourselves, first and foremost; and we think that we should be in a position to win races every year and compete for race wins each weekend,’’ he said. “So, I think within that there’s a lot of fair questions being asked. But I think there is overreaction by fans and media on that last upper percentile of it, especially all the kind and wonderful people on social media and the things that they have to say.’’
Johnson saw positives last Friday and Saturday at Texas in practice and qualifying but said the race didn’t go as well before he was eliminated by a crash.
“We didn’t have a clean race day on Sunday and had a bunch of different problems that set us back and got us in a wreck,’’ he said.
So what is ailing the No. 48 team?
“I can’t put blame in one place,’’ Johnson said. “It would be unfair to say that it’s a manufacturer’s fault and responsibility. I think there is responsibility in all areas. I think we can all bring more to the table and all do a little better job. If we knew what button to push, we would have kept that five in a row (championship) streak alive and kept going.
“On top of the things that we can control within our own walls as a race team, the product has changed. We’re in different cars; tires change…what other teams do, there’s just a lot going on. By no means am I content with where I’m at and where this team is at in our performances, but we can’t work any harder. Manufacturer. Driver. Crew Chief. Team. Organization. We can’t. We are literally working around the clock and doing anything and everything we can. So, at some point you have to say, we’re all in. We just need time. We’ll get there.’’