Jimmie Johnson's title hopes always get off with a whimper instead of a bang. This weekend's first Chase race at New Hampshire International Speedway was no different. Johnson's day started off amiss when the No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet lost ...
Jimmie Johnson's title hopes always get off with a whimper instead of a bang. This weekend's first Chase race at New Hampshire International Speedway was no different.
Johnson's day started off amiss when the No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet lost a cylinder and began dropping like a rock through the field. The team was attempting to repair the car under a serious of pit stops but on lap 88 his day came undone.
Johnson made contact with the non-Chase car of Greg Biffle sending the No. 48 Chevy into the wall and ultimately into the garage. It was almost prophetic for Johnson - who earlier this weekend stated that this race could make or break your chances in the Chase.
"I don't know," answered Johnson when asked if this was an unrecoverable blow to winning the title. "We just have to wait and see. It's way too early. I hope I don't eat the words I said early on when I said you can't win the championship here in New Hampshire, but you can lose it today."
It is particularly disappointing for Johnson who in nine career starts at NHIS has never finished outside of the top-15. Also it is a kick in the pants for the driver favored to win the Chase for the Nextel Cup this season. In the last three years of the Chase, Johnson has just narrowly missed winning his first championship title.
"We had a problem with the engine and we lost a cylinder," explained Johnson. "The engine problems had us a little slow but the engine wasn't vibrating like there was something major wrong. The thing was still running right, so we thought maybe a plug wire or a plug was what was wrong with it. We came in and looked at the plug wires, but we couldn't find anything there. We were just trying to get to the next caution so we could look at it again, but unfortunately we were the next caution."
The given for Chase competitors is that you only get one "mulligan" during the final ten races and Johnson has now used his. If he has any chance of being a threat in this years title hunt he and crew chief Chad Knaus will have to work on a strategy that keeps him out of trouble the last nine races of the season.
Such a massive engine failure in the first Chase race spells trouble for Team 48. And the big question is whether they can regain their composure to recover from the ego-blow a 39th place finish in the first Chase race has dealt.
"As of right now, it looks like things are out of control to get back in this thing right now," said Johnson. "I can only make that decision on how these guys are running today. All the Chase guys are up front. There are nine more races. There's a lot of time left. Anything can happen. I lost this Chase for the Championship (last year) on the last lap of Homestead. So who knows, maybe I can win it that way this year."
Johnson got his limping race car back on track on lap 154 to grab whatever points they could. He falls from second to ninth in championship points trailing leader Kevin Harvick by 139 markers.