CONCORD, N.C. – Last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, a multiple-car incident ended Jimmie Johnson’s day prematurely and set him up for a very important elimination race this Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
Currently, Johnson sits eighth in the playoffs standings, which would place him as the final driver to advance to the Round of 8.
If a repeat Round of 12 race winner– Martin Truex Jr. or Brad Keselowski – or a non-playoffs driver wins Sunday’s race, Johnson would clinch his spot in the next round by scoring 49 points.
Of course, he would also guarantee a spot in the final eight racing for a chance to compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway if he finds Victory Lane on Sunday.
“All the members of this No. 48 team love a challenge and we are not even close to losing that desire and that fight to be out there and compete and race for the win and race for the championship,” Johnson said. “The position I’m in, chasing my eighth championship and the desire I have to be competitive week in and week out and be part of that final four, the same for my team, it’s as high as it’s ever been. We really want to be there.”
Among the four drivers below him in the playoffs standings are two former NASCAR Cup Series champions in Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.
With that in mind, Johnson said the team’s mindset entering this weekend is simple.
“We need to hit the track with the mindset of winning largely because of the two, speaking of Matt and Kyle, those guys are both capable of winning here and shifting the points all around,” he said.
Fortunately, the Round of 12 elimination race comes at a track where Johnson and the No. 48 team have seen plenty of success.
Johnson’s three wins and nine top-five finishes at Kansas are the most among active drivers, and his 17 top-10s are the most all-time at the track.
In 22 races at the venue, he has an average finish of 9.6.
“This has been a great track for us,” Johnson said. “We have had a ton of speed here. I think back to this spring and how many cars we passed through the course of the day. We will have a great performance here and we are going to need to have a great day. It would be great to get back to Victory Lane and get that momentum going in the right direction, but more than anything we want to make sure that we advance and get to that next round of eight.”
No matter what, the No. 48 team is ready for a battle.
“It’s going to be a challenging weekend,” Johnson said. “We are a team and a group that thrives on adversity.
“Whenever we have been backed into a corner, we have always stepped up and delivered.”