CONCORD, NC – The opening round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs came down to the final turn on the final lap. Jimmie Johnson was well on his way to his first top five finish since May 27 and well on his way to a second round playoff berth. He was running in second in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 heading into the final few corners on the infield portion of the front stretch.
All he had to do was take it easy and finish there and he would easily advance to the Round of 12.
Instead, all hell broke loose.
Johnson, locked up his brakes and spun his No. 48 Chevrolet. That sent him backwards into the 17th and final corner which in turn knocked into race leader Martin Truex Jr. The top two cars were taken out on the final lap in the final corner.
The top two in the running order were also taken out on the Lap 102 restart too.
Johnson, went from finishing second to finishing eighth. That move cost him a shot at a record breaking eighth Cup Series championship in 2018.
But, Jeffrey Earnhardt did too.
How ironic is it that an Earnhardt kept Johnson from passing Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty for most career Cup championships.
It wasn’t Earnhardt’s fault though. Daniel Hemric hooked him in the final corner which sent him into the outside wall. Kyle Larson who was limping his No. 42 Chevrolet around the 2.28-mile track on the final lap slowly passed Earnhardt to the finish line and came home 25th.
Earnhardt finished 26th.
How did that decide Johnson’s fate?
Before Earnhardt’s incident, Johnson and Almirola were each +1 over Larson. That’s with Johnson crossing the finish line in eighth and Almirola 19th. Larson, was the odd man out.
Then, Larson passed him and finished 25th. That made a three way tie for the 11th and 12th transfer spots. Two would move on and one would be eliminated.
The tiebreaker is based off of best finish in the round.
Larson, finished second in Vegas. He was seventh and 25th in the other two races. For tiebreaker purposes, his finish in this criteria is second.
Almirola, finished fourth, fifth and 19th respectively. His tiebreaker finish is fourth.
Well he was in the top five at Vegas but cut a tire in the end and finished 22nd. He finished eighth last week in Richmond. He went from second to eighth on Sunday on the final lap. His tiebreaker finish is eighth.
See the odd man out now?
Johnson, only has himself to blame but Earnhardt had an unintended hand in it too.