Jimmie Johnson’s career has been marked with breaking countless NASCAR records. But there’s two broken records of a different sort that Johnson is tired of hearing about. Still, they keep spinning him around and around.
First, Johnson’s winless streak – the longest of his NASCAR career – has hit 79 races. His last win was more than two years ago, June 4, 2017 at Dover. Since then, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott has four wins and Alex Bowman one win to Johnson’s zero.
Second, Johnson heads to Pocono Raceway this week on the outside of the 16-driver playoff bubble. He is 17 points behind the 16th and final playoff eligible driver, Clint Bowyer, and 31 points out of 13th place (currently held by Kyle Larson).
So Johnson still has wiggle room and time to get back in the top 16. He also knows he needs just one win and he’ll be in the playoffs.
“We’ve been trying all year, it’s not like we can magically flip a switch and all of a sudden have more (wins),” Johnson said. “We’ve been able to run in the top five and we need to get back to doing that. That’s really what it boils down to.”
He’s not likely to reach the playoffs if his current run of bad luck continues. After having his two best finishes of the season — fourth at Chicagoland and third at Daytona — Sunday’s race at New Hampshire marked Johnson’s second consecutive 30th-place finish. That’s the 12th time he has finished outside the top 10 and fifth time he’s finished outside the top 20 in 2019.
Johnson’s struggles on Sunday can be blamed on mechanical issues that cost him valuable time on pit road while his team made repairs. He finished 13 laps off the pace.
“It was certainly a letdown to say the least,” Johnson said. “We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case.
“So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck.”
Johnson dropped from 15th to 17th in the standings after Loudon. Conversely, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman both passed Johnson and moved up in the points to 14th and 15th respectively. And Daniel Suarez gained 12 points to tie Johnson for 17th, each with 488 points.
So as he heads to Pocono this weekend, Johnson will once again be faced with a situation where he has to bounce back from outside the playoff bubble — this is the fourth time he’s been 17th in the standings this season. If he can leave Pocono 16th or higher, it’s a spot he needs to remain in for the following five races lest he misses the 10-race postseason for the first time in his career.