When Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive championships from 2006 through 2010, he was dubbed Superman. He added a sixth title in 2013 and a seventh in 2016, tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty for the most at seven. After that championship, it seemed inevitable that he would earn an eighth.
But, for all his success Johnson has mostly struggled since NASCAR employed the knockout style playoff in 2014. That year, he finished 11th in the standings and with the exception of his title in 2016, he has not finished better than 10th with the current format.
Now, it seems that Superman may have lost his cape.
Johnson enters the Round 1 elimination race 14th in the standings – six points below the cutoff line.
Will Johnson advance to the next round?
“Nope,” said NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte. “I’d love to get the seven-time champ into the next round, but when I look at his road course numbers: he’s 0 for 6 for a top 10 in the last six road course races.”
In addition to being shut out of the top 10 in his last six road course tries, he has not scored a top five on this track type since 2012. That year, he finished fifth at Sonoma and was third at the Glen.
“I think experience may be the thing on his side,” Dale Jarrett said.
Even so, “I don’t think that he makes it in,” Jarrett continued. “And as crazy as this may sound though, I think that this Roval actually gives him a better chance than if they were racing the mile-and-half oval the way that they’ve performed this year.”
Letarte also believes that Johnson’s experience might possibly be his saving grace.
“The only window of hope is his experience will get him through if it is a chaotic race with a lot of accidents,” Letarte said. “But if everyone kind of minds their ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s’ and stays on track, I just don’t think they have the raw speed to drive up there and contend for the points he needs.”
Chaos has not been kind to Johnson in 2018, however. He retired on lap 59 of the Daytona 500 after being involved in an accident. He finished 35th at Texas in April when he was one of seven drivers who crashed on Lap 179, and he failed to finish the second Daytona race in July with a 23rd.
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