Speedway, IN – Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was a step in the right direction for the 48 of Jimmie Johnson, but the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champion still faces an uphill battle in his quest to qualify for the postseason.
Finishing second in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2, Johnson racked up 34 points en route to a 16th-place finish.
With Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman, who are 18 points ahead of Johnson for the final playoff spot, only earning 26 and 14 points, respectively, Johnson was able to close the gap a bit.
The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday, September 8 (2:00PM ET, NBC) marks the final race of NASCAR’s regular season. While it is possible for Johnson to point his way into the playoffs, a win is the only way for him to control his own destiny.
“We are running out of days and if we miss it, it’s only going to be by a few I believe,” Johnson said.
“If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave a few points away. So, it’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indianapolis. But we are going there to win a race.”
Johnson’s last win came on June 4, 2017 in the AAA Drive for Autism 400 at Dover International Speedway. Mired in a career-long winless drought, Sunday would be the perfect time to snap out of it.
Despite how he has been running for the last two-plus seasons, Johnson has a history of success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 17 career starts at the 2.5-mile rectangular oval, he has won four times – most recently in 2012 – and has recorded seven top-10 finishes.
Johnson finished 14th in the 2018 edition of this event, which was won by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski.
The only driver to qualify for the playoffs every year since the original Chase format was introduced in 2004, Johnson is confident headed into Sunday’s finale.
Holding an outside shot at being the sport’s only eight-time champion, it all hinges on Sunday for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports.