Johnson plays down slow start to '09

Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is not concerned about the slow start to his season, which has him ranked 19th in the points after three races

Johnson plays down slow start to '09

Johnson was a front-runner last weekend at Las Vegas but some bad luck and a few mistakes on the track and pitroad led to his twenty-fourth place finish. He actually spun and hit the wall in the closing stages of the race after recovering from being a lap down earlier on.

"We didn't get the result that we wanted but we had a lot of speed in the car so I feel like (when) we have a mistake-free race, we're going to be in victory lane," Johnson said. "At California we had a lot of speed and a decent finish and then this last weekend we had such a good car, so I'm very optimistic.

"I hate that we're 19th in the points right now, but fortunately it's early in the year and we can move up the list pretty quick if we can just link together a couple of good races. I think Atlanta is a good track to get that started for us."

Last year Johnson didn't have the best start to his season either but he doesn't believe he is in the same situation this year. He reckons he has already shown the speed to win races but either mistakes or bad luck have prevented him from taking victory so far.

"Yes, last year we got off to a slow start but it was more of a panic situation than what we have right now because we didn't have the speed in the cars," Johnson said.

"This year it's different. We've got fast cars but just haven't linked together a solid four or 500 miles and taken advantage of the great cars that we've had.

"I feel like we're in a great position and there is so much racing between now and even when the Chase starts that anything can happen. It's only three races in. Guys are going to have bad luck and hopefully ours is behind us and we can climb up the points ladder here.

"I'm not worried. I'm not stressed. I'm really optimistic and excited about the next few races."

Despite his lack of results, Johnson has run at the front more than any other driver this season. The Californian has led 166 laps thus far, which equates to nearly a quarter of the race distance completed during the first three races of 2009.

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