INDIANAPOLIS, IN – We are down to the final race before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoffs. After Sunday the field will be set and there may be one name missing from the playoff race that has never, ever, ever missed the playoffs since the inception all the way back in 2004.
Jimmie Johnson is the name that may be missing from the playoff field. No conspiracy, no dramatic story as to why they may not be there, they just haven’t performed at a championship level this season, or for that matter, last season either. Just about everyone thought a crew chief change might be the thing that was needed, after all, Jimmie and Chad had won seven championships together. Some had thought that the team had gone stale.
2019 was the first season Jimmie Johnson had started without Chad Knaus on the pit box. Kevin Mendeering was the man to turn the No. 48 ship around. It just didn’t happen, for whatever reason. Nothing seemingly changed and his time was up after just 21 races.
In steps former car chief, Cliff Daniels, who has been in charge since Mendeering was removed in July.
“We have great confidence in Cliff’s ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “He’s a natural leader and tremendously talented from both a technical and communication standpoint.”
When Daniels rejoined the team in Sonoma everyone noticed a difference, even the driver.
“There was just such a spark that he brought,” Johnson said. “I noticed, outside people noticed, I think our fans have even noticed. Management noticed.”
Well the spark needed to be a raging inferno, but nothing ever caught fire. The results have been the same, so it is a trip to victory lane for Jimmie to lock in that spot in the championship.