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How Jimmie Johnson can miss the 2018 NASCAR playoffs

Nick Bromberg
Yahoo Sports
Jimmie Johnson just needs to stay ahead of teammate Alex Bowman at Indianapolis. (Getty)

It’s not likely that Jimmie Johnson is going to miss the Cup Series playoffs. But it’s possible.

Here’s how.

Johnson currently 14th in the points standings

Johnson is, at the moment, the second-to-last driver in the playoff field via points. The 13 drivers ahead of him plus Austin Dillon (thanks to his win in the season-opening Daytona 500) are locked into the playoffs.

Johnson is currently 19 points ahead of Alex Bowman for the final playoff spot. That makes his playoff qualification pretty straightforward. As long as Johnson stays ahead of Bowman in the standings — no one else can catch Johnson in the points standings at Indy — he’s in the playoffs no matter what.

That should be doable. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are having their worst season to date. But as long as the team doesn’t have a mechanical issue or a crash, Johnson is in good shape.

Where things could go wrong

Disaster strikes if both of the following two things happen:

• Bowman scores 20 more points than Johnson.

• A winless driver behind both Bowman and Johnson in the points standings wins the race. Meaning Sunday’s winner would have to be either Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray, William Byron, Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Michael McDowell, Kasey Kahne, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ty Dillon, or Matt DiBenedetto.

The odds of those two events happening are pretty low. Yeah, Indy has produced some surprise winners over the last 10 years (like Kasey Kahne a year ago), but counting on a surprise winner in a very predictable 2018 season isn’t advisable. There’s no one on that list above who has shown anything close to consistent winning speed in 2018. It would take a crash-filled race like in 2017 or a fuel-mileage race like in 2011 for a surprise winner to knock Johnson out of the playoffs.

Like we said before. It’s possible. It’s just not likely.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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