Jimmie Johnson put his Lowe’s sponsorship to good use on Sunday at Michigan.
After the handle to his shifter broke, he attempted to change gears with a pair of pliers and a vice grip, a tough task while in park, never mind close to 200 mph. Largely due to the difficulty of the process, it didn’t work and Johnson had to pit again to get the issue fixed, losing a lap in the process.
Somehow, Johnson regained the lap and raced his way to a ninth-place finish, his best since his seventh-place performance at Sonoma in June.
“We put ourselves in a bad position with a shift lever falling off, breaking off I should say, but I was able to rally back and get ourselves a good finish,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get any further up in the field, but still salvaged a lot today.”
Going into Michigan, Johnson was mired in a rough stretch lowlighted by finishes of 37th or worse in four of his last six races.
Unconcerned with his span of poor performances, Johnson cited he overcame similar circumstances in past years.
“It’s nice to have momentum entering the Chase, but if it doesn’t happen we’ve won championships that way, too,” Johnson said.
The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion continues his quest for number seven at Bristol on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC) – a place known for heated exchanges, of which Johnson had with Ryan Newman post-race at Michigan.
Johnson has had uncharacteristic stumbles at Bristol of late, finishing 19th or worse in each of the last three races there – including a 36th in last year’s night race that matched his worst career finish at BMS.
Still, that means little. Already locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, it’s an all-or-nothing mentality for Johnson. A win would mean another three bonus points to start the Chase. Currently, Johnson would start the Chase with 2,009 points.