For awhile this year, it seemed that Cup No. 6 was an inevitability for Jimmie Johnson. After all, this guy was the Golden Boy of the Chase, the driver who could win in reverse at any of the Chase tracks. Who could outrun him? Who could defeat him?
As it turned out, the only driver that could reliably defeat Jimmie Johnson was ... Jimmie Johnson.
Problems throughout the Chase killed his chances, and as Johnson noted in an interview with Scene Daily, the self-inflicted wounds hurt that much more. "I said all along, if we lose the championship because we get beat, that's one thing," Johnson told Scene. "If we beat ourselves, that's another. I feel that we beat ourselves this year. That's something I have to really look hard into myself and [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] and the team and make sure we don't do that again in the future."
The three primary issues were a collision with Kyle Busch in New Hampshire, a solo wreck in Charlotte, and a shuffle to the rear at Talladega. Combined, those three finishes left him outside the top five in points for the first time in his career.
Also of note: Johnson didn't get the breaks he got in the Chase this year that he's enjoyed in previous years. In 2010, 2009 and before, Johnson seemed to float above the fray, dodging wrecks that took out competitor after competitor. But this year, the scales balanced, as every single good break Johnson had received the past half-decade flipped back on him. Not only that, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart found a gear that Johnson and Knaus simply couldn't locate.
"What's worked the last five years didn't work for us this year," Johnson said. "So maybe we need to make some changes in how we go about things."
It's worth noting that Johnson isn't exactly done for; he may well reel off another half-dozen Cups. But for now, he's human again. Take advantage while you can, fellow drivers.
Jimmie Johnson blames himself for 2011 mistakes [Scene Daily]