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Jimmie Johnson embracing playoff challenges heading into AAA Texas 500

Peter Dawson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Auto Racing

Jimmy Johnson is in a slightly unfamiliar position. The seven-time NASCAR champion has earned his racing legacy by building big leads and then slamming his foot down on the gas.

But with two remaining races before the final round of the Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs, the No. 48 car isn't guaranteed to advance. Johnson occupies fifth place heading into the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson looked relaxed sitting behind a desk, as he fielded questions from the media on Friday. He also looked as hungry as ever to win this race and eventually a record eighth title.

"I do feel good about getting it in, but I think we're all so used to momentum, and we haven't had that extremely high race-winning momentum on our side just yet," Johnson said. "When our team gets hot it gets hot quick and great things can happen."

An 11th-place finish at Kansas and a 12th at Martinsville gave Johnson's title hopes a second life. Johnson has won a record seven races at Texas, including six of the previous 10 dating to 2012.

TMS repaved and reconfigured the track during the offseason, but Johnson still found a way to win the April race.

"There's something here that still works for me," Johnson said. "The old track, without a doubt. The porous surface, the bumps, the multiple lanes, all of that plays into what I'm best at and what the team is best at."

Johnson admitted he's had some discussions about his future. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring after the season. Former teammate Jeff Gordon retired two years ago.

And last year, three-time champ Tony Stewart wrapped up his career.

"Rusty (Wallace) said he was going to stop at this point, at the time he couldn't do it, so I filed that away and Mark Martin thought he was ready a couple times ... and he kept coming back," Johnson said.

"For others, that fire is out and they're ready to step down and happy to walk away. I am on my own journey. I still feel like I have more to accomplish, and I still love being in that race car."

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