Jimmie Johnson doesn’t have much room for error in next Sunday’s 25th Running of the Brickyard 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IMS Radio Network/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion sits 15th out of 16 drivers in the current playoff standings. He’s 87 points up on the bubble.
While that should be a healthy margin, it may not be next weekend in Indy. While Johnson is a four-time Brickyard 400 champion, bubble drivers like Jamie McMurray (2010), Paul Menard (2011) and Ryan Newman (2013) are all past winners of the race on the famed 2.5-mile track.
What happens if Johnson falls to the 16th and final wildcard spot and someone on the outside looking in wins the race itself? Johnson, would miss the playoffs. He’s only 19 points ahead of Alex Bowman for 15th in the standings. If he falters again and Bowman has a good day, then Johnson falls to 16th. Then, if we see an upset winner, Johnson is out.
That’s why Sunday night’s 39th place finish in the Southern 500 wasn’t the finish that they could have hoped for.
This weekend start off great as his No. 48 Chevrolet was in the top seven in both practice sessions on Friday. Unfortunately, he got into the wall in qualifying on Saturday and his team would have to repair the damages after. With this being an impound race, he’d have to start in the back as a result of that.
Still, Johnson came through the field to 14th before having to pit for a loose wheel. Later on, he’d have a pit commitment violation. Then, on Lap 233, he’d pull behind the garage for an oil leak.
Sunday was his third finish of 28th or worse in the last four races. Since June 10, he has just two top 10 finishes to his credit. His last top five came back in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27.
Yes, Johnson has gone from Memorial Day to Labor Day and hasn’t had a top five finish in that time frame.
Even if he does make the playoffs, does this sound like someone worth taking a flier on?