Don’t count out Jimmie Johnson just yet

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 11: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson never really had a chance to show what he could do at Michigan International Speedway, and the early trouble he experienced in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 kept the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion squarely on the Playoff bubble.

On Lap 15 of 200, Johnson ventured up the race track, trying to challenge Denny Hamlin for position. The result was disastrous, as Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet drifted toward the outside wall and collided with the barrier.

The impact flattened the right side of the car, and Johnson lost three laps on pit road before his crew could put the Chevrolet back in running condition. Ultimately, Johnson finished 34th, eight laps down and fell to 18th in the series standings, 12 points outside the current Playoff cut line.

“The right-side tires went into the PJ1 (traction compound), and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall,” Johnson said. “When you’re aggressive, it doesn’t work and then sometimes you’re cautious and it doesn’t work. It was a great car. That hurt, for sure. We’re just going to have to rally on, and these guys are doing an amazing job. We’ll keep digging.”

Daniel Suarez ran fifth on Sunday and vaulted into 17th in the standings, eight points ahead of Johnson, who has qualified for every Cup postseason since NASCAR introduced its first Playoff format in 2004.

“It’s super disappointing,” Johnson said. “It’s a little easier when it’s not on you, and you can call it a mechanical or a flat or get caught up in a wreck. But I’m behind the wheel, and I’m the one that got us in the fence.”

If there was a saving grace for Johnson, it was a late crash that relegated fellow bubble driver Clint Bowyer to 37th at the finish, depriving Bowyer of a golden opportunity to gain ground in the standings.

“The guys around that cutoff point all seem to be having bad luck,” Johnson observed.

Greg Engle