For the second race in a row at Michigan International Speedway three time defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas before the final lap of the race. Sunday Johnson and his team took a sure top five finish and wound up 33rd. For most race teams that would be a devastating result, for Jimmie and his #48 team it was a calculated risk.
There are just three races left until the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR’s version of playoffs. Right now Johnson sits with a near guaranteed spot in that playoff. After the 26th race the top twelve in drivers points make the playoffs, and are re-seeded according to how many races they won in those 26. Then these 12 drivers race the final 10 races of the season competing against one another.
If the Chase started today Jimmie would be the third seed 10 points behind number one seed Mark Martin. Since there are only three races left until the chase Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus felt the reward in this case out weighed the risk. For every race Jimmie wins in the next few weeks he gets another 10 points to help him towards his fourth straight Sprint Cup title.
The last time the Cup series was at MIS in June, Johnson ran out of gas battling Greg Biffle for the lead, this time the team ran short on gas with a few laps to go. Fuel mileage seems to be the only chink in this team’s armor, and that is how another team is going to have to beat them.