Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Jimmie Johnson turns heat up on Brad Keselowski

Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus

prior to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson is the king of mind games — he doesn’t fall victim to them — and he’s got five trophies as proof.

He doesn’t let the pressure rattle him, and as a veteran of seven championship finales he knows how hard it can be to tune out the noise surrounding the title-deciding race. So Johnson was more than willing to poke, prod and remind Brad Keselowski just what’s at stake at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend.

Keselowski takes a 20-point lead over Johnson into Sunday’s finale, and needs only to finish 15th or better to win his first Sprint Cup title. It would give team owner Roger Penske his first championship at NASCAR’s top level in 29 years of competition.

So Johnson opened Thursday’s championship contenders’ news conference by referencing this season’s IndyCar championship, where Penske driver Will Power took a 17-point lead into the finale but crashed early and coughed away the title.

“It seemed like it was a lay-up race, and things can happen,” Johnson said.

Then he talked about the foolishness in assuming Keselowski will roll to a 15th-place finish Sunday and clinch the title.

“This garage area is tough, the weight of the race, I don’t care who you are, it’ll show up at some point in time and thoughts will run through your head and with all that being said, a 15th-place finish is not a lay-up for these guys,” Johnson said. “I have a little bit of stock in that. We’ll see how they respond.”

Keselowski sat square-jawed looking straight ahead, seemingly tuning out the attempt to get inside his head. The 28-year-old knows drivers have fallen victim to these games before, and has insisted during the entire 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship he wouldn’t repeat their mistakes.

A nervous Denny Hamlin sat between Johnson and Kevin Harvick two years ago, his legs shaking under the stage as his rivals lobbed barbs at him for almost an hour. Hamlin completed his collapse three days later, when Johnson rallied to win his fifth title.

Last season, Tony Stewart charmed his way through the news conference at an un-amused Carl Edwards’ expense. Stewart then snatched the championship away on a tie-breaker by winning the finale.

So Keselowski knew exactly what Johnson was up to on Thursday.

“Certainly, he’s trying to apply pressure,” Keselowski said with a smirk. “Certainly, I don’t feel any.”

Keselowski has talked at length of late about the pressure he’s felt in his life. He came to Homestead in the Truck Series in 2004 and failed to make the race. In 2006, his family’s race team went broke trying to get him to the track. When he finally got his big break, at Chicagoland in the Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports in 2007, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. sent him out on a track he’d never seen before, telling him if he wrecked the car he wouldn’t get a chance to drive it next week.

“Now that was pressure,” Keselowski said. “Moments like that make this seem not so bad, and they also build up a level of confidence where I feel like this is quite a bit easier than those moments.”

Keselowski won six races for Earnhardt before moving on to Penske Racing and a Sprint Cup Series ride, and with a month to go in the season, Earnhardt predicted Keselowski would hang with Johnson all the way until the end.

“I don’t think he’s going to crack. I think he’s going to be hard to beat,” Earnhardt said. “I think he will be a tough competitor all the way through. Brad has been waiting on this opportunity all his life so I don’t expect him to crack under the pressure.”

Keselowski opened the Chase with a win at Chicago and picked up another victory at Dover to take control of the championship fight, but Johnson used consecutive wins at Martinsville and Texas to take a seven-point lead into Phoenix last weekend. A blown tire there caused Johnson to crash, and now Keselowski has a nice cushion that’s certainly giving him some peace of mind.

Johnson said the weekend is young.

“He may be very comfortable and calm now, it may not happen until he’s in the car, but at some point that magnitude hits,” Johnson said. “I’ve lived through it five times. That’s a turning moment, and we’ll see how he responds. This just isn’t any other race. This is the championship race, and there’s a lot that comes with that.”

Keselowski insists he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I want the pressure. That’s what I want. That’s what makes it worth something,” he said. “Without those questions, why am I doing that? I’m just driving a car in a circle. Without having a motivation, it doesn’t mean anything. You can’t strip away your motivation just to remove yourself from pressure because then you can’t justify your existence.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
Supervisor candidates file conflict-of-interest forms

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Trial begins for teacher accused of abusing children

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Suisun police ID shooting victim

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Solano Jews gather for start of Passover

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
 
County discusses consolidated dispatch

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Miner Slough Bridge to see repairs

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
‘Heaven is for Real’ opens Wednesday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B5

 
Fiesta Days pageant organizers seek contestants

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Easter hunt set for Mare Island

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Crews make quick work of vehicle fire

By Glen Faison | From Page: A6, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Paper Clover Campaign supports Solano County 4-H

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

Coakley joins Solano fair board

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Hundreds flock to Krispy Kreme as it opens doors

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
County to honor Solano educators

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

.

US / World

Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Shrimp Boy’ pleads not guilty in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ukraine: Military secures airport from attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Democrats have outside money advantage – for now

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 2 Comments

 
First women move into Army platoon artillery jobs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
New LA newspaper embraces print in digital world

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Congress is giving states the transportation blues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Police: Suspects in killings wore GPS devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Robot sub returns to water after 1st try cut short

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
2 dead after ferry sinks off SKorean coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

.

Opinion

 
Oh, for the days of Dr. Welby

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page: A13, 12 Comments

Poor Judgement in Flight 370 column

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
Senseless babble that hurts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
Expand Red Top Road

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Editorial cartoons for April 16, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: April 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
What love gives you

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

Today in History for April 16, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
A matzo ball soup fit for a weeknight dinner

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
Sweet pairings for grown-up Easter treats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

My husband still pays his 45-year-old unemployed son’s bills

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 16, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer for bombing coverage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Lindsay Lohan’s mom pleads guilty to DWI in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Strahan’s ‘GMA’ side job confirmed with his visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Cal hires Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin as coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors trying to move on without Andrew Bogut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks’ Torres uncertain for playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Indians shut out Mustangs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach returning to job

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

More former players sue NHL regarding concussions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to 1-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Twitter buys data analytics partner Gnip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Yellen signals more aggressive stance toward banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Carolyn McClelland

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Evonne Medina

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7