Jimmie Johnson: ‘My desire to win has never been stronger’

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DOVER, Del. — Jimmie Johnson would go for the win entering the final chicane at the Charlotte Roval if he had to do it again.

“I still have got to make that move,” Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway. “I still got to try for it.

“I would have made a small brake bias adjustment, and I think I would have modulated the brakes a little bit different entering the corner. Looking back, I was a little lower than I typically was entering that braking zone and had a bit more steering wheel input in the car and that’s initially why the left front locked up.

“I would change a couple of things, but I don’t know how I don’t go for it.”

Even though Johnson was in a position to advance to the second round of the playoffs, he attempted to maneuver around leader Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap. Johnson spun after his brakes locked, lost six positions and finished eighth.

“It wasn’t this desperate move to try to pass him in that braking zone,” Johnson said. “My intent was to be alongside of him, one side or the other because I felt that would have tripped him enough to where I had a real shot on the exit of the corner to the start/finish line.”

Johnson was eliminated from title contention when Kyle Larson passed Jeffrey Earnhardt’s stalled car less than 100 yards from the finish line. That was the one position Larson needed to forge a three-way tie for the final two transfer spots with Aric Almirola and Johnson. Larson and Almirola advanced via a tiebreaker (best finish in the first round).

The result has provided a week’s worth of second-guessing of Johnson and the No. 48 team.

“I’ve thought about it a lot and what I would do differently,” he said. “I would just like to learn from my mistakes. I do feel bad for my team and the fact that we didn’t advance and how much we put into that, but countless text messages, phone calls, walking though the shop, they’ve all supported my decision to race for the win.

“The other piece that weighs on me … I feel bad for Martin and that No. 78 team. I hate that my mistake affected them and could impact their season to some degree. I don’t like that aspect to it, but it is racing and I know in my heart that it was a legitimate attempt at winning the race and a mistake was made. I didn’t go in there to try to move him out of the way and wreck him and create all of this havoc. I’ve moved on and did have a good week but there are a couple of things that still linger.”

Johnson comes to a track where he’s won a record 11 times and is the site of his most recent victory in June 2017.

“My desire to win has never been stronger,” said Johnson, who is on a career-long 52-race winless streak. “I’m happy last week that people were able to see that.

“But when I’ve been criticized about my commitment and desire while running 20th, this is the same fire has been there. I think it’s unfair to be judged by the performance on track. It’s a collective group that puts the car in position to win.

“We’re at my favorite race track and absolutely do I want to win the race. I will do everything in my power to win the race, but it takes a collective group to have the car, the pit stops, the strategy and I don’t know if this weekend is that weekend. But if there is a track I can make up a tenth (of a second) or two for the team, this would be one of them.”