Michigan International Speedway has become Jimmie Johnson's own personal house of horrors and his misfortune continued Sunday, as an engine failure on Lap 54 saw his No. 48 Chevrolet limp to the garage.
He would not return to the track and Johnson finished the Pure Michigan 400 in 40th. This was the first time he has failed to finish a race all season.
Johnson started at the rear of the field in a backup car after a wreck in final practice Saturday. The accident forced him to forfeit his third starting position but it didn't appear to slow him down any, as he moved into the top 20 within 20 laps.
"Coming down the back straightaway, I felt it drop a couple of cylinders and knew we were in trouble," Johnson said. "So brought it to pit road and unfortunately it finally broke all the way and locked up."
Although he has come painstakingly close numerous times, the two-mile oval is one of five tracks Johnson has never won at in 24 career starts.
A year ago in this race, he was in the lead when a blown engine ended his day six laps from the finish. In June, Johnson had one of the fastest cars on the track, but a cut tire forced him into the wall as he was running second. And there have been other instances when the 48 team seemingly had the race won before his luck turned to the worse.
"It does," Johnson said when asked if he felt like the track was out to get him. "But it's going to make it all the sweeter when we are able to win."
Johnson, who secured his 10th consecutive Chase bid last week at Watkins Glen, entered Michigan with a robust 75-point advantage over second-place Clint Bowyer. But Johnson's season thus far has been defined by the races he didn't win.
Two weeks ago at Pocono, the No. 48 was the dominant car, but Johnson hit the wall while in traffic and finished 13th. He has also had victories slip away at Dover, Michigan, Kentucky and Indianapolis due to what Johnson refers to as "self-inflicted" mistakes.
"I'm not overly concerned," Johnson said. "I hate having momentum not work in our favor late in the regular season. I think we would have had a very strong race today if not a win. That momentum is key rolling into the Chase. That is the biggest downfall to me."