Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who has never failed to qualify for NASCAR’s postseason, is among those who have not secured a playoff spot entering this weekend’s regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It sucks,” Johnson said after finishing 39th in Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. “I don’t want to be in this position. We have been around this spot for a while. We have seen it coming. We just need to transfer and honestly, I think our cars are capable of running in the top five. If we can just start minimizing mistakes, my own included, we will be much better off and have a shot.”
Two playoff spots remain. Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman hold those positions. Johnson leads Bowman by 19 points.
They both will make the playoffs provided a winless driver lower than them in the points does not win. If a winless driver below them in the points wins, than Johnson and Bowman will battle for the final playoff spot.
Johnson finds himself in this position after an awful Southern 500 weekend. He hit the wall in qualifying. Since cars were impounded afterward, the repair work the team did was considered unapproved adjustments and he started at the back of the 40-car field.
Johnson had moved to 14th when he pitted under green for a loose wheel. Johnson’s woes grew when he was penalized for a commitment line violation. That put Johnson multiple laps behind.
He continued to struggle before going to the garage with about 130 laps lap because of a mechanical issue. It marked the fourth time this season he’s failed to finish a race.
“We’ve just got to clean those things up,” he said. “Our cars are much better.
“There is no need to flip out now. We have had a pretty rough year to this point. We have been working hard, unfortunately just haven’t had the results. We will keep working hard. There is no quit in myself of this team.”
Drivers who have clinched a playoff spot: