For the first time in its history the NASCAR Cup playoffs will not have Jimmie Johnson among the contenders. The 7-time champion saw his hopes end in a hard crash on lap 105 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson, who hasn’t won in the Cup series since 2017 needed nothing short of a win in the race that will set the 16 drive Playoff field. He came to Indy 18 points below the cutline for the 16th and final spot, and after qualifying fifth, briefly led from lap 88-92.
On a restart on lap 105 at the end of Stage 2, Johnson was seventh; he dove to the low side in Turn 2 and went three wide trying to charge towards the front. His Hendrick Motorsports Teammate William Byron was in the middle and got loose coming down and sending Johnson spinning towards the outside wall. Johnson’s Chevy hit the wall hard; Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Matt DiBenedetto were also involved. Byron, Menard, Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto were able to continue.
“Yeah, it’s really disappointing,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we’re in here today and we needed a stellar day. I think we were having a strong day. I’m really proud of my team with what’s been going on.
“The No. 1 car (Kurt Busch) had a little trouble on the restart. I’m on the inside going into the corner and it was just super tight. It’s unfortunate that happened. Certainly it’s not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go below the white line and kind of got snipped there and turned around; and around and round we go.”
Johnson took was left of his car straight to the garage ending his hopes for an 8th NASCAR Cup title.
“I think it’s pretty impressive the run we’ve been on to be in the Playoffs for this many consecutive years,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure who is close, but I don’t think they’re very close. So, we have that to be proud of. Sure we wanted it to continue on, but the goal is to win a race. This team is getting stronger each and every week and (crew chief) Cliff Daniels is doing an amazing job of leading this group of Ally’s, and we’re ready to roll. We’ll dust ourselves off and go to Vegas and try to get a trophy.”
Johnson has struggled in the last two seasons having gone winless since 2017. A new crew chief in July seemed to improve his performance, but in the end, it wasn’t enough for him to make up enough ground to contend for the title, at least this season.
“Months ago it was tough because we couldn’t really get anything going our way,” Johnson said. “Now we have the optimism of strong qualifying sessions, strong race cars, and races. We just need to get to the Finish Line.”
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