Johnson Retakes Final Playoff Spot with Two Races Left in Regular Season

Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton - Getty ImagesPhoto credit: Jared C. Tilton - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton – Getty Images
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="From Autoweek» data-reactid=»23″>From Autoweek

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jimmie Johnson made up over 25 points on William Byron on Saturday at Dover International Speedway and surpassed his younger Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the final provisional playoff spot with just two regular season races remaining.» data-reactid=»24″>Jimmie Johnson made up over 25 points on William Byron on Saturday at Dover International Speedway and surpassed his younger Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the final provisional playoff spot with just two regular season races remaining.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Johnson finished seventh at his best track, while also accumulating seven stage points, while Byron languished to a 27th place result and three laps down.
» data-reactid=»25″>Johnson finished seventh at his best track, while also accumulating seven stage points, while Byron languished to a 27th place result and three laps down.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, in the closing months of his final full-time season, fell out of a provisional playoff spot on July 23 at Kansas Speedway. While the No. 48 team has shown flashes of brilliance this season with crew chief Cliff Daniels, the group has also been plagued by misfortune, self-inflicted or otherwise.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Johnson was fifth in the championship standings and leading the first race back from the coronavirus shutdown at Darlington when he crashed on the final lap of the first stage. He finished second in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte but was disqualified for a post-race inspection failure.» data-reactid=»31″>Johnson was fifth in the championship standings and leading the first race back from the coronavirus shutdown at Darlington when he crashed on the final lap of the first stage. He finished second in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte but was disqualified for a post-race inspection failure.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The 44-year-old then missed the Brickyard 400 due to a positive COVID-19 test. While it looked like a might have needed a win over the final three races, Byron’s issues and a solid overall afternoon allowed Johnson to make up the deficit on points alone.
» data-reactid=»32″>The 44-year-old then missed the Brickyard 400 due to a positive COVID-19 test. While it looked like a might have needed a win over the final three races, Byron’s issues and a solid overall afternoon allowed Johnson to make up the deficit on points alone.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Johnson still hasn't won since the June 2017 race at Dover. The one-mile concrete track has hosted 11 of Johnson's 83 career victories.
» data-reactid=»33″>Johnson still hasn’t won since the June 2017 race at Dover. The one-mile concrete track has hosted 11 of Johnson’s 83 career victories.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""Solid day for this Ally Chevy team," Johnson said in a post-race press release. "We have some work to do but we will go to work tonight and get it right. Everyone did a great job, we have something to build on tonight and we will come back tomorrow and have something left for them. Bittersweet day tomorrow for me – my final Dover race."
» data-reactid=»34″>»Solid day for this Ally Chevy team,» Johnson said in a post-race press release. «We have some work to do but we will go to work tonight and get it right. Everyone did a great job, we have something to build on tonight and we will come back tomorrow and have something left for them. Bittersweet day tomorrow for me – my final Dover race.»

For his part, Byron suffered something akin to a Murphy’s Law kind of race where nothing went his way.

The Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 did not show race contending speed during the first half, so crew chief Chad Knaus gambled with a strategy that kept his driver out on old tires near the midway point of the race.

A caution never came and Knaus was forced to call Byron down pit road.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Knaus called for a two-tire stop, but Byron was unable to keep leader Denny Hamlin behind him. As a result, he was trapped two laps down and could never catch the cautions or speed needed to get back on the lead lap.
» data-reactid=»38″>Knaus called for a two-tire stop, but Byron was unable to keep leader Denny Hamlin behind him. As a result, he was trapped two laps down and could never catch the cautions or speed needed to get back on the lead lap.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Johnson spoke earlier in the week about the strangeness of battling a teammate for that final spot — especially since Kanus engineered all seven of his Cup championships.
» data-reactid=»39″>Johnson spoke earlier in the week about the strangeness of battling a teammate for that final spot — especially since Kanus engineered all seven of his Cup championships.

«Yeah, it is odd. It’s unfortunate, as well,» Johnson said. «But it’s the situation that we’re in. With Chad on the box there, you just think of the layers of how it’s odd and we’re all fighting for that last spot in the Playoffs.»

Here are the playoff bubble standings with just Dover on Sunday and Daytona next Saturday night remaining on the regular season schedule.

Keep in mind that a winner from 20th place on back would bump the 16th place driver out of the provisional playoff grid, so catching Matt DiBenedetto should be a priority on Sunday, especially with Daytona looming large as the wild card race.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="12. Kyle Busch +117
13. Kurt Busch +88
14. Clint Bowyer +78
15. Matt DiBenedetto +27
16. Jimmie Johnson +3

17. William Byron -3
18. Erik Jones -22
19. Tyler Reddick -45

» data-reactid=»43″>12. Kyle Busch +117
13. Kurt Busch +88
14. Clint Bowyer +78
15. Matt DiBenedetto +27
16. Jimmie Johnson +3

17. William Byron -3
18. Erik Jones -22
19. Tyler Reddick -45