BROOKLYN, Mich. — A week fraught with controversy all but ended in a thud for Jimmie Johnson. Now he’s outside a playoff spot with three races left in the regular season.
Johnson entered Sunday’s race holding the final playoff spot but saw any hopes of scaling the standings end when he hit the wall on Lap 15. He pitted for repairs and returned shortly afterward when he cut a tire. Johnson was seven laps down by the end of Stage 1. He finished 34th — the third time in the last five races Johnson has finished 30th or worse.
“I was racing (Clint Bowyer) and working the outside of him and he was working to take the air away from me,” Johnson said. “I got my right sides in the traction compound and it just wasn’t working yet. As soon as I got my tires into it they went straight into the wall.”
The result left Johnson to lament his result, punctuating it with a heavy sigh.
“Aggressive and it doesn’t work and sometimes we’re cautious and it doesn’t work,” he said. “Great car. Just really bummed. That really hurt for sure. Have to rally on. These guys are doing an amazing job. Just keep digging.”
Johnson’s woes, combined with how others he is racing for the final playoff spot fared, dropped him to 18th in the standings. He’s 12 points out of a playoff spot, which is held by Clint Bowyer. Daniel Suarez is next. Suarez is six points behind Bowyer and six points ahead of Johnson.
The seven-time Cup champion has never missed NASCAR’s postseason since its inception in 2004.
How does Johnson keep that streak going?
“Just fight hard for every point,” he said of what he has to do at Bristol, Darlington and Indianapolis before the regular season ends.
He’s fallen behind as his results have soured and he was embroiled in controversy last weekend at Watkins Glen with Ryan Blaney. Their spat carried over to this weekend when they both traded barbs in the media before talking on Friday night.
While that is settled, Johnson’s drought isn’t. He’s now gone 82 races without a win and is in danger of seeing his playoff streak end.