By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After the elimination race at Dover International Speedway in 2015, Jimmie Johnson shocked the NASCAR world as he was eliminated from the Chase for the Championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Fast-forward to 2016, and Jimmie Johnson firmly raced his way from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12.
As attention was set on the four drivers that had been eliminated from the Chase, as well as race winner Martin Truex Jr., Johnson’s team showed life that has been missing from the No. 48 Lowe’s Chervolet SS team in recent weeks.
Qualifying for the Citizen Soldier 400 was cancelled due to weather, putting Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team eighth on the starting grid.
As the race began, Johnson slowly moved forward. Johnson had broken into the top five by lap 60.
On a restart on lap 189, Johnson was able to take the lead from Truex. Before Truex could fight back, the caution waved on lap 194 for Jamie McMurray, whose No. 1 Credit One Chevrolet SS had an engine expire.
Johnson continued to lead for a total of 90 laps until a round of green flag pit stops around lap 278. Johnson’s pit stop seemed routine, until his team was penalized for having a crewmember over the wall too soon. As Johnson served the penalty with a pass-thru penalty, he fell a lap behind Truex Jr., who inherited the lead.
Johnson fell from the lead to 12th. Johnson was able to climb up to seventh, and even caught Truex Jr. with a handful of laps to go.
Before Johnson could regain his lead lap status, the checkered waved. Johnson finished seventh, the first car one lap down. This was the 12th top 10 for Johnson this season. Johnson is now seeded 11th heading to the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the first race in the Round of 12.
Johnson was disappointed with his results, but was happy to advance in the Chase.
“We had a strong car that we were only a lap down and still ended up seventh. I do feel like one got away, but very proud of this Lowe’s race team. I’m happy to be advancing we are certainly thrilled about that, but feel like one got away today.”
Johnson the 20th best average finish at Charlotte in the last five races among active drivers. Kevin Harvick has the best driver average at Charlotte in the last five races with an average finish of 3.20.
Johnson has a career average finish of 12.97 at Charlotte, including seven wins in 30 starts at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson has 14-career top fives at Charlotte and 18-career top 10s. Johnson has led a total of 1,740 laps at Charlotte. Johnson also has five DNFs in his career at Charlotte.
In the last five races at Charlotte, Johnson has an average finish of 20.00 with an average driver rating of 103.9. During this five race span, Johnson has one win, finished in the top five twice, and finished in the top 10 twice. Johnson also failed to finish once in this time frame.
Based on these statistics, Johnson has a good chance at positioning himself to move on to the Round of Eight.