By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Jimmie Johnson had a decent day going in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan. He started from the 16th spot, but by the mid-point of the race, Johnson had emerged as a solid top-10 car. He even led four laps during a cycle of green flag stops from lap 99 to lap 102.
But at lap 162, things began to come undone for the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Trevor Bayne and Johnson were battling for position, when Bayne washed up the track and into Johnson, which sent Johnson careening into the wall.
“I just got really loose there. It wasn’t intentional with the 48,” Bayne said on his radio after the incident.
Intentional or not, after the contact, Johnson crept up and tapped the back end of Bayne’s No. 6 Ford under the caution. Obviously upset with Bayne, Johnson had no choice but to head to pit road for repairs. Johnson’s crew would go to work, and would add a fresh piece of rear quarter panel to his Chevrolet. Johnson would solider on the rest of the way and would finish 16th, one position behind Bayne.
After the race, Bayne explained that he had his work cut out for himself all day long with an ill-handling race car.
“That was a long day. The thing was sliding around like crazy. It was a tough race and track position was huge. I had my hands full, that is for sure,” said Bayne.
The contact was unfortunate for sure, but more importantly we saw the usually mild-mannered Johnson, slightly boil over briefly after the incident with Bayne, but why?
Frustration could be mounting for Johnson, because since winning twice early in the season, the year hasn’t really gone according to plan. In the last eight races, Johnson now has six finishes of 16th-or-worse. Luckily, Johnson does have two wins in his back pocket, which secures him a place in the Chase, but that fact is apparently little consolation for Johnson, who enters a week off on a very cold streak.
Johnson will look to turn his luck around in a couple of weeks when the series visits Sonoma Raceway. Johnson has one victory at the road course in the land of wine, which came back in 2010.