KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sunday afternoon, 188 laps into the elimination race at Kansas Speedway, it looked like Jimmie Johnson’s run in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs was in jeopardy.
Coming off of Turn 4, the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS spun out into the infield. Quick work by the No. 48 team under caution allowed Johnson to return to the track in 26th. But during the ensuing restart, he spun out again entering Turn 3.
“The car was extremely loose,” Johnson said. “We fought the balance throughout the day and the car would swing so hard. We were trying for short run speed to free the car up and we just got too far with it and I spun out twice. Thankfully, I didn’t hit anything too hard.”
The lack of serious damage to the Chevy allowed the No. 48 team to once again get Johnson back on the track on the lead lap, this time in 28th.
And when he managed to drive through a multiple-car incident shortly thereafter without any damage, luck seemed to be back on his side.
“When things really changed was down the back straightaway in that wreck,” the driver explained. “Somehow, I went through there at a high rate of speed and missed everybody. I don't know how, but I made it.”
In the end, he finished the race in 11th and secured his place in the Round of 8.
“You can just never give up in this sport,” Johnson said. “That's one thing that this team has always prided themselves on and I'm very thankful for that."
Now, Johnson enters the penultimate round of the playoffs as the fifth seed. His 4,017 points are tied with the fourth-place competitor, which would be the last one to advance to Homestead-Miami Speedway to compete for the championship. He’s 52 points behind the points leader, Martin Truex Jr.
The Round of 8 commences this weekend with a trip to Martinsville Speedway, a track where Johnson has won nine times – the most of any active driver, and Johnson’s second-most at any track.
"It's not a bad track for us,” said Johnson, who won at Martinsville during last year’s playoffs. “So, hopefully we can repeat last year's performance there. And then we have Texas coming up. We're not where we want to be, there's no doubt about it. But we're staying alive and I know this team so well, we can find something and we're going to sure as hell try to get it."
He knows he’ll need to be consistent over the next three races in order to have a chance to race for a record-setting eighth title. But his eyes are squarely focused on Victory Lane.
“For us to advance moving forward, we’ve got to win,” he said. “It’s really simple from our standpoint. We’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”
Sunday's race at Martinsville is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.