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Jimmie Johnson in sudden Sprint Cup slump

BROOKLYN, Mich. — The finishes seem implausible, especially because they've come in succession — 42nd place at Daytona, 42nd at New Hampshire, a brief improvement to 14th at the Brickyard, followed by a dip to 39th at Pocono and 28th at Watkins Glen.

This is Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR's six-time Sprint Cup champion?

"It has been a very challenging year," Johnson said. "We started off without the speed that we wanted. We got the speed back and then the luck left. So, we choose to look at it as we're getting all this out of the way so we can have 10 great races (at the end, in the Chase for the Championship)."

With three victories this season, "Six-Time" is safely in the Chase, but lately the No. 48 car has had its share of problems. The latest setback came Friday when Johnson qualified 30th at Michigan International Speedway, complaining afterward about a vibrating car.

Johnson won at MIS in June — his third victory in four races at the time — but based on his recent form, a repeat isn't looking especially likely in today's Pure Michigan 400.

Johnson finished in the top 10 twice in a row after that Michigan win. Then his run of misfortune began. He was one of several top contenders taken out by a couple of huge accidents at Daytona, then tire issues did him in at New Hampshire. He fell a lap down at Pocono after his rear right tire smacked the wall. He rebounded to get back to fifth, then a second blown tire forced him to the garage.

More of the same last weekend at Watkins Glen: With only a few laps to go, Johnson was bumped and his No. 48 spun around.

"We're not trying to make excuses or asking for sympathy from anybody," Johnson said. "But we can't ignore the results and fortunately we're in the Chase era, and we're sitting in a great position."

There are four more races until the Chase, so Johnson has a little while to reverse this trend. Though it has been a humbling stretch for him, he should still be considered a threat for the title at the end of the season.

"It's nice to have momentum entering the Chase. If it doesn't happen, we've won championships that way, too," Johnson said. "So, we're taking it as it comes."

Ryan Truex to sit out: J..J. Yeley will drive the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota in today's race after Ryan Truex crashed during practice Saturday and was taken to the hospital with a concussion. Truex walked to the ambulance after the crash. He hit the wall head-on while exiting a turn, and the front of his car was severely damaged.

Sprint Cup points

After 22 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers make the 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Dale Earnhardt Jr.*** 773—

Jeff Gordon** 768 5

Matt Kenseth 703 70

Brad Keselowski*** 696 77

Joey Logano** 671 102

Carl Edwards** 658 115

Jimmie Johnson*** 650 123

Kevin Harvick** 645 128

Ryan Newman 645 128

Kyle Larson 635 138

Clint Bowyer 634 139

Greg Biffle 626 147

Each asterisk (*) equals one win.

Today's race

Pure Michigan 400, 1 p.m., Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn

TV/radio: ESPN; 102.5-FM

Jimmie Johnson in sudden Sprint Cup slump 08/16/14 [Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2014 7:12pm]
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