Jimmie Johnson scores a career first at Watkins Glen, but not a happy one

Jimmie Johnson finished 40th Sunday at Watkins Glen (Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson finished 40th Sunday at Watkins Glen (Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson finished 40th Sunday at Watkins Glen (Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson is not having a good summer. The six time NASCAR champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver does have wins this season, but has finished outside the top 30 in four of the last nine races, all coming via crashes.  Sunday was the latest DNF, and also marked a career first for Johnson, but now one he would like to brag about anytime soon.

Johnson began the day in 13th and was running inside the top 10 for a time, but during his first pit stop on lap 22 the team let a tire get away and it briefly went outside the pit box before a crewmember was able to retrieve it. NASCAR penalized Johnson and hit him with a pass through penalty.

Johnson’s issues weren’t over however.

On his pass down pit road, NASCAR nailed Johnson for speeding. He was forced back into the pits for a stop and go.  Johnson rejoined the field, but was deep in the pack. On lap 53, Johnson’s day ended just after a restart when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose coming out of the carousal (turn 5). Stenhouse spun across the track and nose first into the wall, then back across the track and into the path of Johnson. Johnson’s Chevy careened into Stenhouse and both came to rest in the middle of the track. NASCAR was forced to throw the red flag for just over 13 minutes while the track was cleaned up.

Stenhouse and Johnson were both okay, but their respective races were over. Stenhouse was scored 38th just ahead of Greg Biffle who was also swept up in the same crash.

Johnson however was scored 40th.  The finish marked the first time in 529 career Cup starts that Johnson has finished in last place.

“Yeah, we had a rough first pit stop and then we were just kind of biding our time and trying to get on a fuel strategy that could benefit us,” Johnson said. “The cars started checking up in front of me and they all moved out of the way and the No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse) was sitting there, stopped. I remember seeing a door number and I was so thankful it was the passenger-side door and not the driver-side door because I plowed him. I really hit the car hard. I was afraid that I might have injured him. But, thankfully he’s okay and everybody is all right.”

Denny Hamlin won the race; the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car was Chase Elliott, who came home 13th. Jeff Gordon substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 14th, Kasey Kahne was 20th.

About Greg Engle 7420 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.