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Jimmie Johnson on winning earlier this season: ‘We can’t think we have it under control’

Kobalt 400 - Practice

Kobalt 400 - Practice

Jared C. Tilton

Jimmie Johnson virtually assured a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth with his victory last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but the six-time series champion still sounds hungry.

“We want as many wins as possible,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver told reporters before Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Winning early is nice because you lock yourself into the Chase, for all intents and purposes, and that is a box that the No. 48 team wants to check. But it is so early, we can’t think we have it under control. There are so many months between now and when the Chase starts, we could find our way or lose our way. (I’m) excited, but we’re just getting started in 2015.”

There will be less to fret about, though, for Johnson in the second season of the reformatted Chase, which ties championship berths to victories. The No. 48 Chevrolet didn’t score its first win last year until the Coca-Cola 600 – the 12th race of 2014 and the longest winless drought to open a season for Johnson since he entered NASCAR’s premier series full time in 2002.

The triumph at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the first of three in four races for Johnson, who won the next week at Dover International Speedway and three weeks later at Michigan International Speedway.

Checkered flags often have arrived in bunches during Johnson’s illustrious career. His 71 career wins include NASCAR’s most recent streak of four straight Cup victories, which he notched at Martinsville Speedway, Atlanta, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway on his march to the 2007 title.

He also posted three consecutive wins at Las Vegas from 2005-07 and another win at the 1.5-mile oval in 2010. That makes him Las Vegas’ winningest driver, a mark he also holds at Dover (nine wins). He is tied with Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins (eight) among active drivers at Martinsville.

“Certain tracks work for certain drivers,” Johnson said. “We’ve been able to be the winningest driver at a few tracks. I take pride in that.”