With two races remaining before the 16-driver playoff field is set in the Monster Energy Cup Series, Johnson is unlikely to make the cut unless he can win this weekend at Darlington, S.C., or the following week at s.

Missing the playoffs would be a first for the seven-time Cup series champion who owns 83 career wins but whose last victory came in June 2017 at Dover, Del.

“I don’t know if I used up my luck in 18 years, I’ve had 15 really good ones, and three that I’m not proud of, but the effort has been the same for all those years,” Johnson said Friday at Darlington. 

“I can’t wait to shut-up the keyboard warriors that are out there. The people that are close to me and the people on my race team know the truth. They know the story. They’ve been working hard on it and when you work hard, wins will come. 

“So, that’s where I find my peace. I know all the effort I’ve put into this program and for what my guys have put into the program.”

Struggling for consistency 

Johnson posted consecutive top-five finishes at Chicagoland and Daytona but since then, his best finish has been 15th at Pocono last month.

Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports has shown speed in recent weeks but he has yet to be able to capitalize on it with a strong finish.

“Honestly, the last three or four weeks we’ve been really fast. It’s just getting through a race. We need to have a lot of things go right to win,” he said. “I think we’re closing the gap to the frontrunners. 

“We’re definitely doing it. I feel like we’ve had many top-fives slip away here in the last six to eight weeks which is unfortunate. So, we’ve just got to clean that up and a lot of it falls on me just making mistakes and trying too hard on the track. 

“I need a good clean lap to remind myself every lap here to race the track and not race the competitors and we’ll see how it goes.”

Playoff streak in jeopardy 

So far, so good for Johnson at Darlington.

He was fifth-fastest in Friday’s first practice and 16th-fastest in the final practice. 

“Believe me, I want to keep my playoff streak alive and I want to be a factor in the playoffs. I want to know what the outcome is, but it’s not that I want to hurry up and get through it and have it go away,” Johnson said. 

“I want to race. I want to get out there and earn another victory and earn my way into these playoffs. That’s what we’re all here for. So, my optimism again, comes from that I just know where this team is right now and I know where it’s going. 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any more time left, but we’re going to finish up the year strong and that brings me a lot of excitement regardless of how the playoffs unfold.”


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