7-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson will have one last chance to make the playoffs this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A 16th-place finish didn’t do driver No. 48 any favors on Saturday at Darlington Raceway. Nor did his finish accurately represent Johnson’s overall performance in Saturday’s Southern 500.
For most of the 367 lap race, Johnson ran in either the top five or top ten. “I had at least 15 years with a lot of luck on my side, seven years of championships and having two or three bad ones is just part of it,” Johnson told NBC Sports post-race on Saturday night. “I keep saying that we’re getting there and tonight we showed it, from the way we qualified to how we ran on those stages. I was running fourth when that accident took place in Turn 3 and I just had nowhere to go.”
Johnson was collected when Daniel Hemric’s tire went down and hit the wall. Driver No. 48 continued and would soon find the lead briefly.
Crew chief Cliff Daniels kept Johnson out on the track when others began to pit early in what was the final pit cycle with just 45 laps remaining, hoping a caution would put the team back into contention for the race win. Johnson would only lead laps 324-326 in the 367-lap race before he pitted.
“Had we done it all over again, we would have done the exact same thing.” Cliff Daniels told NBC Sports post-race.
For 2019, Johnson has 3 top five place finishes and 8 top ten place finishes with an average start of 13.8 and an average finish of 16.2.
To put that into perspective, when Johnson won his last NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship back in 2016, driver No. 48 had 5 wins, 11 top five’s, 16 top ten’s with an average start of 12.1 and an average finish of 14.0.
In his 2016 Championship season, Johnson led 737 laps throughout the season. Over the past three years, Johnson has led a combined 341 laps. That’s 396 laps less than what he led in his entire 2016 season.
If Johnson wants a shot at an eighth career NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship, he’ll likely need a victory to make the playoffs.