CONCORD, N.C. – The 2019 NASCAR Cup Series regular season comes to a close this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Brickyard 400 provides one final chance for drivers to secure their spot in the playoffs.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron have all clinched positions in the 16-driver field. Elliott and Bowman did so by finding Victory Lane, and Byron earned his way in on points following last weekend’s Southern 500.
Including this year, Hendrick Motorsports has sent at least three drivers to the playoffs in 12 seasons, the most all-time.
However, for just the second time in his career since NASCAR implemented a playoff format, Jimmie Johnson is not locked into the playoffs entering the final race of the regular season.
The only driver to have made the playoffs in every year of its existence, he enters the 26th race of the year 18th in the point standings, 18 points below the cut line.
The simplest way for the seven-time Cup Series champion to make his way into the playoffs is to win on Sunday. A four-time Brickyard 400 winner, he has scored Indianapolis wins in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
“There is some pressure to go out and win this weekend, but that is what we do every weekend – we go to a track with the intention to contend for wins,” Johnson said.
There is an opportunity to advance into the playoffs on points, though the situation becomes slightly more complicated and would require some help. That's why the driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has his eyes set on Victory Lane.
“If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave away a few points,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indy, but that is where we are right now. It’s a great track to win at.
“We know what we have to do this weekend.”