Jimmie Johnson’s night didn’t start well and got worse from there Saturday at Kansas Speedway, resulting in a 19th-place finish that extended his winless streak to a career-high 34 races.
Starting 23rd, Johnson struggled early with his car’s handling. More trouble arose on a pit stop after the competition caution on Lap 30.
The result was a loose wheel. He had to pit under green on Lap 62 because of that and fell a lap down. He lost a second lap coming to the end of Stage 2 at Lap 160 when Kyle Larson lapped him. Crew chief Chad Knaus was not pleased with the move by the fellow Chevy driver even though Larson was being chased by Kevin Harvick for the stage victory.
“We should have done a … better job there Earl blocking (Larson),” Knaus said on the radio to spotter Earl Barban after the stage ended.
Johnson responded: “It’s not Earl’s fault. I was trying to pass the 24 (teammate William Byron). He was in my … way.”
Two laps down before the final stage began, Knaus radioed Johnson: “Let’s just be smart here, we’re not really racing for anything. We’ve got to have something go our way. We’re going to have to go like 10 laps and get a caution in order to get a wave around.”
They never got the caution.
Later during the final stage, Knaus radioed Johnson: “Use your tools, bud. You alright?”
Johnson responded: “Do you want me to ride or go? What do you want me to do?”
Knaus said: “We need to try to keep our pace. Doing a good job … Try to keep our pace up so we’re not another lap down.”
When the race ended, Knaus radioed the team: “Not a good day guys, I know. We just got to clean it up.”
It wasn’t a good night for all of Hendrick Motorsports, which remains one victory away from 250 career Cup wins. Chase Elliott led the way by placing 12th but said afterward: “Just scratching and clawing to run mediocre. We have a lot of work to do.” Alex Bowman was 18th, Johnson 19th and Byron finished 33rd after crashing late.
This season, Johnson has tweeted inspirational quotes, focusing mainly on quotes from Babe Ruth.
Sunday, Johnson tweeted a quote attributed to Mookie Wilson, a member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets: