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Chase Wilhelm | NASCAR Digital Media

Jimmie Johnson hampered by early brush with wall at Michigan

Jimmie Johnson’s playoff hopes took another hit Sunday afternoon after an early scrape with the wall at Michigan International Speedway.

RELATED: Race results

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet drifted out of the groove and made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turn 2 at the 2-mile track. He limped back to the pits with a flat tire and significant right-side body damage on Lap 15 of a scheduled 200.

Repeated pit stops for repairs cost him more ground, both on the results sheet and in the points standings. He wound up 34th in the 38-car field, scored eight laps behind race winner Kevin Harvick in the Consumers Energy 400.

“The right-side tires went into the PJ1 (traction compound) and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall,” Johnson said post-race. “When you’re aggressive, it doesn’t work and then sometimes you’re cautious and it doesn’t work. It was a great car. That hurt, for sure. We’re just going to have to rally on and these guys are doing an amazing job. We’ll keep digging.”

Johnson entered the 400-mile race tied for 16th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. With just three races left in the regular season, Johnson sits 12 points behind the playoff cut line in 18th.

Since posting top-five finishes at Chicagoland and Daytona, Johnson has slumped in the last five races with three finishes of 30th or worse. It’s left the seven-time series champion in a pressure-packed scenario with some clear goals.

“To just fight hard for every point,” Johnson said. “The guys around that cut-off point all seem to be having bad luck. If one of us could just string together some good races and get in the clear and get away… I think that’s what the No. 24 (William Byron) has been able to do, is just have some good, consistent races and built a nice gap. You’ve just got to keep fighting for every point.”