Jimmie Johnson loses ground as Playoff cutoff race looms

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 17: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

There’s no mincing words. Jimmie Johnson is in dire peril of missing a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff berth for the first time in his career.

But first things first—before Johnson can think about qualifying for the postseason, his luck has to change.

Though no fault on the driver’s part, Johnson’s no. 48 Chevrolet sustained damaged when Austin Dillon blew a right front tire and hit the outside wall on lap 80. Eventual race winner Denny Hamlin also hit the side of Johnson’s car during the same incident.

Subsequent contact with Paul Menard’s Ford sent Johnson back to pit road for an unscheduled stop, costing him two laps. Ultimately, Johnson came home 19th, four laps off the pace, but it was a hard-fought 19th that could have been worse.

But Johnson finished race 26 points on the wrong side of Playoff eligibility, trailing Daniel Suarez by that number. He’s also 24 points back of Clint Bowyer, who currently holds the 17th spot in the standings.

The early accidents simply deprived Johnson of any chance to make a better run at Bristol.

“After the first incident, it was just too hard to make up ground after that,” Johnson said. “We just had so much damage. To come back 19th is respectable. The other part is that we had to get off strategy because we lost two laps. So the first two-thirds of the race, we were running old tires against the field a lot of the time trying to get laps back. It was just one of those nights.”

“Qualifying (30th) put us in that spot. A better qualifying effort would have had us in a much better position. I wouldn’t have been there when the 3 (Dillon) blew his tire, and life would be totally different.”

Greg Engle