INDIANAPOLIS -- Jimmie Johnson has two victories this year, guaranteeing him a spot in the NASCAR postseason. He remains the only driver to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in each of its 13 seasons.
And yet the six-time Sprint Cup champion could really use a win.
He hasn't run well. That's putting it mildly. He has no top-10s in his last six races. Up next is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a place where he has won four times, including three in championship seasons.
If he ever raced at a track that could help boost his season, Johnson will race at one Sunday afternoon in the Brickyard 400.
"The magnitude of this race, in the red vest [Lowe's paint scheme] car, the chance to tie Jeff [Gordon] as the winningest [driver at the Brickyard] -- there's a lot of things to look to for motivation," Johnson said. "But, man, it can honestly happen anywhere. Even at a road course."
Johnson believes it is easier to run the Chase with some momentum but that's not a requirement to have a great Chase. Sometimes the Chase comes down to a simple part breaking, as what happened to Johnson last year at the end of the first round at Dover.
So what's the big deal? Johnson said the big deal is the team hasn't had the speed.
"You could debate those results due to some crashes and stuff, but I'm not trying to sugar coat it at all," Johnson said. "We're not where we want to be. It's been a couple of years since we've had the raw speed that we have grown accustomed to.
"There has been a lot of hard work and change that has gone on over the last three years, and we're not stopping."
The reason the team has put in so much work points to the realization that the answers aren't readily available. The team tried a new short-track car for last week at New Hampshire, and it didn't perform as well as hoped. At least Johnson knows that when he returns there for the Chase.
"Based on history, we had some stuff we've been interested in trying and were like, 'Heck with it, let's try it,' " Johnson said.
"Unfortunately it didn't yield the success that we wanted. Now we know and we won't come back in the fall Saturday night [the night before the race] making a bad decision [on the setup]."
That was pretty indicative of how the season has gone for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports as a whole. Johnson, in ninth, ranks best among Hendrick drivers in the standings this year.
"Unfortunately we're not having the instant change that we would all hope we would find," Johnson said. "Honestly, it tells us it's not one thing. It's a lot of small things.
"I feel like the Chevrolet body, it's the same one that was on the car when the SS started [in 2013] and hopefully we can get a little help there [from NASCAR]. I know the other manufacturers have had multiple changes."
But any hopes of some Chevrolet body changes won't come until next year. As far as the now, Johnson hopes that having Jeff Gordon substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. will provide a small benefit in a hugely negative situation.
He believes Gordon might not only be able to see what is causing the issues, but if they need commitment from management to make some drastic changes, Gordon now can speak from the experience of being inside the car.
"As connected as he can be in literally living it and going into a management meeting or some kind of office meeting and be able to sit there with all honesty and a fresh opinion and say, 'Yeah, this is what we need to do,' I think is helpful," Johnson said.
Johnson compared it to being like Denver Broncos general manager John Elway getting back in the huddle.
"He is a huge, huge asset in being a former player but it's been a while since he's been in the huddle," Johnson said. "You look at Gordon evolving into that role potentially at Hendrick Motorsports, and, 'Oh by the way, I just played one of the biggest games of the year.'
"He comes back in the room and has a fresh perspective."
Team owner Rick Hendrick said his shop has become a salvage yard with wrecked cars. He hopes that Gordon can give Johnson and the rest a lift.
"I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever," Hendrick said. "You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements.
"I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend."
That doesn't mean Johnson wants to see Gordon beat him to the finish line. Johnson needs that win. He'd get into Gordon -- or Earnhardt for that matter -- if he had to for the win.
But which driver would Johnson rough up more?
"That's a tough one," Johnson said with a laugh. "Maybe I'd feel bad if I had to put a fender to Junior because he doesn't have a Brickyard yet and Jeff has got five.
"It would be a little easier to lean on Jeff than Junior. ... I'm in trouble either way."