Jimmie Johnson needs a miracle

Jimmie Johnson

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson won his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship with a serendipitous victory in the Championship 4 race.

This year, Johnson will need more than serendipity. He’ll need what amounts to a miracle just to earn a shot at a record eighth title.

Johnson comes to Phoenix Raceway eighth in the series standings, last among the drivers trying to survive the Playoff’s Round of 8. With one berth available in the Championship 4, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is 51 points behind fourth-place Brad Keselowski with no realistic chance to qualify for the finale on points.

Complicating Johnson’s problem are a year-long search for speed. During a season that has produced a career-low four top-five finishes, Johnson’s current winless streak has reached 21 races. That said, it’s hardly surprising that Johnson isn’t brimming with optimism about his chances at the one-mile flat track in the Sonoran Desert.

“We’re in a must-win-situation,” Johnson said on Friday morning before opening practice at Phoenix. “We wish we were in a better points scenario, but that’s not the case. This team thrives on pressure and adversity, and we’re certainly in the position right now. When we look at the last two or three races here, we’ve had very competitive cars.

“The effort was made this week to make sure we brought the best bullet—second to none—and I’m really proud of my team and the way that all of Hendrick Motorsports is working together to make sure that the No. 24 car (of teammate Chase Elliott) and the No. 48 car have their best chances to win here and move on and stay alive for the championship. We’ll find out Sunday afternoon.”

Johnson has a formidable streak on the line in this year’s Playoff. Since NASCAR adopted a postseason format in 2004, Johnson has won at least one race in the final 10 each year. He has two races left to keep the string going.

He will start 12th Sunday.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.