By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson saw his quest for a record eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title take a major hit with a 27th-place finish in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 42-year-old Californian started ninth and looked to be an early favorite, having entered with seven victories at the 1.5-mile in his career. However, on Lap 65 of 334, following the first sequence of green flag pit stops, Johnson brought the car down pit road for a reported vibration and ended up falling two laps down.
The day added insult to injury as he was lapped again on Lap 131 by race leader Kyle Larson.
The final outcome left the seven-time series champion three laps down and with four consecutive finishes outside the top 10.
“We’ve got to figure something out,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.
“Kansas was a lot like this. It was just extremely difficult to drive the car and carry entry speed.
“And then we had a loose wheel and then contact on a restart. We started off in a hole and just kept digging a deeper one as we went. I’m definitely disappointed. And, I honestly just feel bad for my team. These guys are working so hard and to work this hard and not see any speed go back in the car, and have bad results as the last three weeks, have been is pretty disappointing.”
Johnson was the first to admit that the underwhelming performance has left him scratching his head and looking for answers.
“”Yes, probably more than anyone else is,” said Johnson.
“The corner entry at Kansas and here has just been really bad. I’ve had to let off really soon so people don’t get to my bumper and make my condition even worse.”
Overall, Johnson enters the next race at Phoenix International Raceway in a must-win situation, a place where he has four victories and a stout 20 top 10 finishes in 28 career starts.
“It’s been a good track for us, but this last half of the year has been really weird,” said Johnson.
“In places where we expect to run well and traditionally do, we haven’t. But I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix and we’ll go there and fight as hard as we can.
“And that’s one thing this team will never do it give up.”