KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson stood on Kansas Speedway pit road feeling as relieved as accomplished, having advanced to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
His 11th-place finish in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet was enough to move forward toward a record-setting eighth Cup championship, and he’ll begin this next three-race stage of the Playoffs ranked fifth among the eight drivers advancing.
Johnson freely conceded after the race that it was a hard-fought 11th-place effort that included rebounding from a pair of spins, including a trip through the frontstretch grass and avoiding the day’s “big one,” a 14-car car crash on Lap 197 of the 267-lap race.
“Spun out twice and thankfully didn’t hit anything too hard,’’ Johnson recollected. “When things really changed for me was on the back straightaway in that big wreck. I went through there at a high rate of speed and missed everything.”
WATCH: Johnson’s pair of spins
Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, also felt a big sense of relief when the checkered flag flew. It was a busy day in the pits and an important day on the radio keeping the team focused and calm during an extremely eventful race.
“It’s not what we wanted, but we have a shot at it still and that’s all that really matters,’’ Knaus said.
It was a day of hard work for the No. 48 team, but even Johnson’s competition joked after the race that “of course” Johnson advanced in the playoffs.
“Even spinning through the grass and all sorts of things going on,’’ race winner Martin Truex Jr. said smiling.
And if this three-race round of the playoffs was a little more dramatic than Johnson would have preferred, he is clear about making the upcoming three races – at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix – dramatic for other reasons.
Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville, including the playoff race there last year. He has seven wins at Texas, including four of the last six races and a win just this April. He has four wins at Phoenix.
And just for good measure, Johnson won his seventh Cup title at the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale last November, earning the race trophy despite starting last in the field.
“So thankful for my team and them motivating me and my motivating myself,’’ Johnson said. “We missed that wreck on the back straightaway today and found new life. Moving forward we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win one of these last three races before Homestead.
“I’m glad I sounded calm [on the radio] because that was the last thing it was. I think I was so frustrated and emotional that I got over the screaming and yelling and just was calm again. I’m very thankful we all kept our heads in the game and stayed alive for the championship.
“You never know what it’s going to take.”