Jimmie Johnson is now 15-1 in making the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
The Californian’s incredible streak came to end Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis when he was involved in a crash on Lap 106. On the bottom of a three-wide battle in Turn 2 with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron and Kurt Busch, Johnson and Byron bounced off each other with Johnson then spinning, hitting Busch and the outside wall.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we were in here today and needed a stellar day. I think we were having a strong day and just really proud of my team and where we’re at and what’s been going on. The 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 not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go any lower — I was below the white line and kind of get snipped there and turned around … and ’round and ’round we go.”
In addition to Johnson and Kurt Busch, others involved in the accident included Paul Menard, Chris Buescher, Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, and Matt Tifft.
The seven-time champion had held the unique distinction of being the only driver to have made the postseason every year since its introduction in 2004. By failing to qualify for the postseason, Johnson will finish lower in points than he ever has before in the Cup Series.
Just like last weekend in Darlington, the day had looked promising. While overcoming his 18-point deficit on the cutline was going to be tough, Johnson started fifth and spent much of the afternoon battling inside the top 10. He finished sixth in Stage 1 and eight in Stage 2, and was running inside the top 10 when the accident occurred.
“Well, first of all, I think it’s pretty impressive the run we’ve been on to be in the playoffs for this many consecutive years,” continued Johnson. “I’m not sure who (else) 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, but the goal is to win races.
“This team is getting stronger each and every week. (Crew chief) Cliff Daniels is doing an amazing job of leading this Ally group, and we’re ready to roll. We’ll dust ourselves off and go to Vegas and try to get a trophy.”
Daniels made the call over the No. 48 team’s radio that they were done for the day. Daniels, who has been Johnson’s crew chief for just four weeks, then told his team: “Thanks for the fight, guys. I promise you our season is not over yet.”