Jimmie Johnson will retire a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team missed the cut by six points. Challenging for one of the final spots throughout Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway, Johnson was caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 160 that damaged his Chevrolet and dashed his hopes.
“That’s the disappointing part, to look back at ones that got away – ones that I never got a shot at, like the Brickyard – and to miss it by only six points,” said Johnson. “I knew it was going to be an emotional couple of weeks going down the stretch. I knew the situation we were in, so it’s not like this is a shocker or a surprise. My emotions are what I would have expected.
“I’m definitely disappointed, but we’ve been running well, and I still know I can win a race. There are still races to win. After a couple of beers and a flight home, I’ll get a good night’s rest, try to shake it off tomorrow and just focus on the next race.”
Running in the third lane, Johnson saw the contact going into Turn 1 between William Byron, Joey Logano, and Bubba Wallace. At first, it appeared everyone was going to gather it up; but then Logano spun and a multi-car crash broke out.
Johnson hit the wall and was nearly out of harm’s way before he said he got “clobbered.” A spinning Matt Kenseth tagged Johnson in the left rear, spinning Johnson into Tyler Reddick. Johnson limped to a 17th-place finish in overtime.
“Guys were bummed out on pit lane as I was getting out of the car, but we all know there’s still 10 more races to try to win,” Johnson said. “That’s what everybody focus is, trying to send me out with a trophy.”
William Byron and Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus won the race to clinch their playoff spot. Johnson said he is “genuinely so happy” for that pair as teammates and because of his relationship with Knaus.
Two key races that cost Johnson were the loss of points when he was disqualified from the Coca-Cola 600 when his car failed inspection, and not being able to compete at Indianapolis. He had tested positive for COVID-19 two days before the race.
Johnson will retire from full-time Cup Series competition at the end of the year. He has been winless since the summer of 2017.
“There are 10 more chances to take a trophy home, that’s all we’re focused on at this point,” said Johnson of the message for his team and fans. “Nothing else matters. It’s about winning races and finishing out this year as we should.”