During the first half of the 2017 season, it looked like Jimmie Johnson was well on his way towards winning his record eighth championship. Johnson won three races during the first half of the year, and he looked dominant.
But the second half of the season went about as poorly as possible for Johnson. He didn’t win a single race in the second half of the season, and even though he made it into the Round of 8, it never felt like he was close to winning a race and winning another title.
Johnson admitted how frustrated he became, and he said he had never worked so hard to accomplish so little before last season.
“We kept hoping every stone we turned over would help us find our problem,” Johnson said via Autosport.
“What was so frustrating is I’ve never worked so hard in my life to get such little return.
“I know Chad [Knaus, crew chief] can say the same and the team can. The efforts they put in, just mind-boggling.
“I’m so happy I have a group of guys to do that, to do anything possible. It’s just so frustrating when you don’t get anything for it. So that was tough.”
Johnson said he’s entering the 2018 season with a recharged battery, and the end of last season provided him with motivation in the offseason.
For the first time in recent memory, Johnson isn’t one of the favorites to win the championship. His odds entering the season are 15/1, and there are seven drivers ahead of him. It’s rare to think of Johnson as an “underdog,” but the spotlight is on other drivers instead of Johnson in 2018. And that’s probably just fine with him.