Jimmie Johnson’s playoff berth for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series isn’t a guarantee despite heading into the regular season finale 15th in the standings. But, if the seven-time champion wants to even do any damage in the playoffs, he knows that he needs to enter the postseason with some momentum. Unfortunately, Johnson hasn’t had much of it lately. He hasn’t had a top five finish since May 27 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. That was just his second top five finish all season.
He had four all of last year.
He also only has two top 10 finishes over his last 11 starts on the year too. So, in terms of ranking the favorites for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IMS Radio Network/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Johnson won’t be pretty high on the list. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the two annual summer holidays, Johnson didn’t score a single top five finish.
He has just one top 10 finish over his last four Brickyard 400 starts anyways. That was a third place run in 2016. So, can the El Cajon, Calif native get back on track this weekend?
“I couldn’t even put into words what it would mean and do,” said Johnson on if winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400 could give him some momentum back for the playoffs. “We’ve worked so hard and have had some good moments along the way that could have turned into great moments. Mistakes on my behalf, the team for whatever it may be, bad luck or misfortune, etc have not allowed us to capitalize on our good luck this year. Its been extremely frustrating and extremely difficult to live through. A win is the way to turn it around. We’ve seen this team get hot at times and make us unstoppable and a win this weekend would be the turning point for us to do that.”
Johnson, had a chance to win last year’s race actually but spun on oil while trying to make it three-wide for the lead in the closing stages. He’d finish 23rd instead. He’s either been feast or famine at Indy over the course of his career.
“I was able to get position off of Turn 2. Kasey (Kahne) and Brad (Keselowski) were racing hard and side-by-side exiting Turn 2 and anytime. Anytime you run side-by-side through any of these turns it’s slows you down. It gave me a chance to pick up some momentum and pull down to the inside down the backstraightaway down to Turn 3. I remember looking into the mirror thinking, who’s smoking? It must be me. I couldn’t really smell or see it in the car. I took me seeing it in the mirror to see what’s going on. I had a very long conversation with myself it seemed like wondering if it was going to affect my corner. As soon as I let off the gas in Turn 3 I was sideways.”
He only has six total top five finishes, one was that third place run two years ago and the other five were either first or second place finishes. He’s won this race four times all in a span of seven years. In fact, from 2006 through 2013, Johnson had four wins and a runner-up in his No. 48 Chevrolet. In the other eight races, he’s had six finishes of 14th or worse.
He needs to get on track and maybe that comes on Sunday. After all, Hendrick Motorsports only has two wins since last year’s race, one of which being Kasey Kahne surprising everyone and winning the 2017 edition.
“It is a very difficult track and it took me a couple of years to find the rhythm and figure that out,” said Johnson on why he’s been so good at Indy. “It is a very unique track like Dover and Martinsville and some of those challenging and unique tracks I’ve always taken a liking to and had success at. Indy now fits in that category. This could be a very big turnaround race for us. I have that feeling. We qualifying well here last year. We raced really well here. We had a shot to win if not for the oil leak. If we do our part, we can have a shot at the end.”
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