Related: Sprint Cup standings
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Jimmie Johnson's Michigan futility continued Sunday, as the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion exited the Pure Michigan 400 early with engine issues.
Johnson has never won at Michigan in what is now 24 career Cup starts. It's one of only five tracks where the Hendrick Motorsports driver has yet to visit Victory Lane.
"Coming down the back straightway I felt it dropped a couple of cylinders and I knew we were in trouble," Johnson, the series points leader and a four-time winner this season, said. "So I brought it to pit road. Unfortunately, it finally broke all the way and locked up."
Johnson started at the rear of the field Sunday, his No. 3 qualifying effort wiped out by a Saturday spin that necessitated the use of a backup car for the race.
He had climbed as high as 22nd by Lap 18, taking advantage of early cautions to get fresh tires and fuel. He also led three laps during an early round of green-flag pit stops because of the differing pit cycle.
Once the green-flag stops had been completed, Johnson was seventh in the running order -- until he made the hard left turn into the garage, his day done with a 40th-place finish.
"We had a strategy on how we were going to work our tires and fuel to get to the front," he said. "Fortunately, the car had so much speed in it, we didn't really need to use strategy. We were just rolling up through there ? definitely disappointed we're not out there racing."
Officially, Johnson, 28th in the June event here, completed 80 of the race's 200 laps.
Heading into Sunday's race, Johnson sported a 75-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer. He has held the points lead following 22 of this season's 24 races and will remain the leader in spite of the Michigan trouble.
"I'm not really concerned," Johnson said. "I hate having momentum not work in our favor late in a season. I think we would have had a very strong race today, if not a win, and that momentum is key going into the Chase. That's the biggest downfall to me."
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