After recent rough restarts, 5-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has new outlook

  • Article by: MARK LONG , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 4, 2013 - 8:23 PM

Jimmie Johnson celebrated in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Pocono 400 on June 9.

Photo: Russ Hamilton Sr., Associated Press

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is reshaping his views about restarts.

After two noticeable mistakes during recent restarts late in Sprint Cup races, Johnson said Thursday he plans to "lighten up and loosen up" when it comes to restarts.

"I know the rule," Johnson said. "I feel like I'm maybe a little focused on the way the rule reads exactly and paying maybe too close of attention to that."

Johnson was penalized at Dover early last month for jumping a restart. Since then he's been critical of the pace of restarts and the interpretation of rules regarding them. He had a costly error at Kentucky last week, spinning shortly after a sluggish restart.

Johnson accused leader Matt Kenseth of breaking the pace car speed during the restart.

"There are a lot of restarts, especially during the Kentucky race, that I brought down that I feel like a good citizen, a good student in doing exactly what I'm supposed to," Johnson said. "There are other times when I don't feel that exactly happens and that it's not called on or viewed from the tower as kind of the rule reads.

"At the end of the day, I'm just going to lighten up on how I think about it and use that zone and that area regardless of the way the rule reads to get an advantage and worry about myself."

Kenseth went on to win his fourth race of the season. Johnson, meanwhile, managed to finish ninth and maintain his series points lead.

"Over the last month, month and a half, probably since Dover at least, I think Jimmie's been very frustrated with restarts," Kenseth said. "And I think last weekend ... he just didn't have good restarts. For whatever reason, his car wouldn't restart fast. We've all had cars like that."

Other drivers suggested restarts could be in Johnson's head, a notion he laughed off.

"I'm not smart enough to let it get in my head, so we're fine there," he said. "There's not much between these ears."

Johnson's new outlook on restarts could come into play during Saturday night's 400-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.

"It doesn't matter how I interpret the rule," Johnson said. "It's how it's enforced. That is the thing that I'm trying to focus on now. It doesn't matter how I read it, what I think. Clearly the way I've felt a few things have gone are different than the way it's enforced. The way it's enforced is all that matters. That is where I'm focusing now."

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