After his brush up with Ryan Blaney last week at Watkins Glen, Jimmie Johnson was looking to turn his fortunes around with his new crew chief at Michigan.
But early in the race, Johnson got over aggressive and wound up in the wall putting him 8 laps down.
That mishap puts him 2 positions below the playoff cut off line. He has to beat Ryan Newman who is currently in the final 16th spot, and perhaps more importantly, 22 points ahead of Johnson.
Climbing up the points ladder late in the season gets tougher and tougher as every few points make a difference.
Johnson is no slouch at Bristol with one win in the past 5 races there (April 2017). Since 2017, his average at short tracks is 10.5. While not terrible, a Top 10 finish is not what Jimmie Johnson needs right now. This spring, Suarez and Newman finished 8th and 9th, respectively, with Johnson 10th. That kind of math doesn’t get you anywhere in playoff points racing. If Johnson has any hopes of making the playoffs, he needs to have Newman, Bowyer and Suarez to have a few terrible races. And with his recent history at Darlington and Indianapolis, well, he better find that proverbial golden horseshoe and fast.
I said back in June that if Johnson didn’t get a Top 10 at Sonoma, you could write him off for any playoff spot. So far, he’s making me look like Nostradamus.
Bristol isn’t the old Bristol and with the multiple grooves, it certainly can be a more forgiving track. But heck, so is Michigan and Johnson messed that one up. Being aggressive at Bristol can get you to the front — or it can put you deep in the field. Johnson needs to manage his car and stay in contact with the leaders until Stage 3, then he needs to get after it. Getting into trouble early at Bristol will make his race a hellish evening. There are 10 drivers fighting for their playoff lives right now and you have to be there at the end to finish strong.
This race may be the make or break race of the season for the 48 team.