By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
A massive accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended Jimmie Johnson’s playoff hopes before the race even finished.
On lap 104, Johnson found his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the bottom of a three-wide situation entering turn two. The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion’s Hendrick Motorsports machine broke loose beneath his teammate William Byron.
As the car whipped around, Johnson caught Kurt Busch before slamming the outside wall. He was then rear-ended by Parker Kligerman who had nowhere to go. Chris Buescher, Daniel Hemric, and Paul Menard were also involved in the melee. The damage to the No. 48 was terminal leaving Johnson 35th.
“The No. 1 car (Kurt Busch) had a little trouble on the restart,” Johnson explained. “I’m on the inside going into the corner and it was just super tight. It’s unfortunate that happened. Certainly, it’s not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go below the white line and kind of got snipped there and turned around; and around and round we go.”
Johnson entered the Big Machine Vodka 400 at The Brickyard on the outside, looking in for the playoff grid. ‘Superman’ moves, and a timely caution, earned the veteran stage points. However, at the start of the final stage, Johnson was still 16-points behind and needed to win.
The accident marks the first DNF for Johnson in 2019. It also means that for the first time since the inception of the playoffs in 2004, Johnson will not make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Now, he will have the opportunity to play spoiler for the final 10 races.
Johnson reflected on his streak of making the playoffs.
“Well, first of all, I think it’s pretty impressive the run we’ve been on to be in the Playoffs for this many consecutive years. I’m not sure who is close, but I don’t think they’re very close. So, we have that to be proud of. Sure, we wanted it to continue on, but the goal is to win a race.
“This team is getting stronger each and every week and (crew chief) Cliff Daniels is doing an amazing job of leading this group of Ally’s, and we’re ready to roll. We’ll dust ourselves off and go to Vegas and try to get a trophy.”