Johnson Enters The Brickyard 400 Against The Wall But Not Out In Quest To Make NASCAR’s Playoffs

Jimmie Johnson. [Chris Trotman/Getty Images]

Jimmie Johnson. [Chris Trotman/Getty Images]

By Dan Margetta

Speedway, Ind., Sept. 7—Despite seven NASCAR Cup championships and four Brickyard 400 victories, Jimmie Johnson enters this year’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard on the outside looking in when it comes to the 2019 version of NASCAR’s playoffs and a relative long-shot to avoid missing the cut for the first time in his career.

Still, buoyed by some changes within the team and an uptick of on-track performance in recent weeks, Johnson told media members gathered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday the team remains confident they can either win the race or erase the 18-point deficit they face to make the playoff cut.

“It would be a heck of a story to be able to tie Jeff (Gordon) with five (Brickyard victories) here,” Johnson stated as he seeks his first victory of the season, “To have the drought and all the other things everyone writes about, to have all that come to a conclusion and lock myself into the playoffs, that would be one heck of a story.”

“It’s pretty simple, there’s just a couple of guys to worry about and I have to make up a lot of points in one afternoon,” Johnson continued, “As a team, we’ve discussed how aggressive we are going to be and the things we will need to be able to go for the victory and eliminate any need for points. I don’t think you are going to win from 20th so you will need a fast car and will need to be in the mix and run up front to get stage points and have a shot to win. I really think you need to be a dominant car and be up front all day long to have a shot to win the race.”

Cliff Daniels recently took over as crew chief of the #48 team and Johnson said the results have been noticeable.

“There has been more preparation since Cliff took over as crew chief,” Johnson stated, “There has been more hours and time put in and it’s neat to see the energy and brotherhood inside of the 48 team and how bad they want to perform. The guys are there when they don’t need to be and it’s pretty amazing to see the time and effort and how all of that has added up the last couple of weeks as things started clicking which helped the performance on the track.”

“We’ve turned the corner that’s for sure, last weekend we were good all through practice and qualified well and ran well so we’re getting there,” Johnson continued, “And what I’ve learned through this difficult time is just how important the team is. I’ve been the beneficiary of some amazing teams and I didn’t realize how fragile it was until I got a call to start building that and help select the right people to put in place to build that.”

“I’ve learned a ton and I think we are at a spot now that everybody can see where the hard work has gone and it’s starting to show up in our performance.”

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