4 Reasons Jimmie Johnson Just Couldn't Get It Done in 2012 Sprint Cup Chase
Jimmie Johnson has been one of the most dominant drivers seen recently in NASCAR.
Yet, by the time NASCAR entered its final race of the season, Johnson was 20 points behind Brad Keselowski—this despite winning two out of the last four races of the Chase.
The five-time champion was trying to win his sixth title, but he was at a clear disadvantage. What happened to this dominant driver?
Several different factors played into why Jimmie Johnson didn’t win the title in 2012. From bad luck—which set Johnson back 20 points going into Homestead—to failing to get into Keselowski's head before the final race, different issues prevented Johnson from winning his sixth championship.
Even with Hendrick power and years of experience behind him, Johnson found himself in a hole going into Homestead and never managed to overcome the points deficit.
Here are four reasons why Johnson just couldn't get it done this year.
4. Bad Luck
Jimmie Johnson ran into some bad luck during the last two races of the Chase.
Cutting a tired at the exact time he was going into a corner is pretty unlucky. It ended his chances of finishing well at Phoenix and dropped Johnson 20 points in the standings.
It might have been Johnson's fault for running too hard with a car that clearly couldn't handle being pushed, but Lady Luck was not on Jimmie’s side.
His bad luck continued at Homestead.
He had made up some ground on Keselowski during the race, but found himself a lap down because of pit crew mistakes.
Johnson continued to try to make up lost ground after going a lap down, but his bad luck took him out of the race, as the No. 48 ran into engine trouble.
He went back to the garage, and his chance at winning the title ended.
Jimmie Johnson ran into bad luck during the last two races of the season. He fell 20 points down going into Homestead and ended any chance he had of winning the championship before the race ended.
Johnson's bad luck even knocked him out of finishing the season in second place.
3. Pit Crew Screw Up
Johnson ended up in the garage before the Homestead race was over. But he had no chance of winning the championship laps before he suffered engine trouble.
Yes, going into Homestead, Johnson was 20 points down, and it seemed impossible for him to walk away with his sixth championship.
He had raced hard and was even leading the race at one point.
However, when he came in to pit, his pit crew made a fatal mistake of only putting on four lug nuts instead of five, and Johnson was forced to circle around again and go through pit road for a second time.
This put him a lap down and completely erased any ground he had made on Keselowski. It also eradicated any slight chance he had of winning the title.
Johnson's pit crew, which had been basically flawless the entire season, cracked under the pressure and made a huge mistake that took him out of the championship even before he ran into engine problems.
Their screw up was a huge mistake, and it sealed Johnson's fate at Homestead.
He has no control over the mistakes his pit crew makes, but Johnson's crew cracking under pressure is one of the reasons why he couldn't get it done in 2012.
2. Couldn't Crack Keselowski
Johnson tried his best to get into Keselowski's head, but it didn't work.
Jimmie is a master at the mind games in NASCAR, and he has been able to shake up some of his previous competition over the years.
After what happened to him at Phoenix, Johnson needed any advantage he could get going into Homestead.
He tried to get into Keselowski's head during a press conference before the Homestead race. He was quoted by Jenna Fryer of Yahoo! Sports as saying:
He may be very comfortable and calm now, it may not happen until he's in the car, but at some point that magnitude hits. I've lived through it five times. That's a turning moment, and we'll see how he responds. This just isn't any other race. This is the championship race, and there's a lot that comes with that.
It was a good attempt by Johnson to rattle Keselowski, but it failed to work. Brad knew where he needed to finish going into Homestead, and he didn't let the pressure of winning the championship get to him.
Johnson's usual mind games didn't crack Keselowski, and without his usual mental advantage, he didn't stand a chance.
1. Too Conservative
One of the biggest factors that separates Keselowski and Johnson is how Keselowski drove like he was going for the win in every race. Jimmie Johnson, on the other hand, seemed fine finishing runner-up and surviving in other races.
Because of his conservative style, he needed to play catch-up at the end of the Chase season instead of being the leader.
His conservative style was part of the reason Johnson got caught up in the big wreck at Talladega, giving him his worst finish of 17th in the Chase prior to the last two races of the season.
Hanging back and focusing on finishing in the top five during Chase races might seem like a good idea, but for the past two years now, it's been about winning, not finishing in a good position.
Stewart won the championship by trying to win each race of the Chase, and he managed to win five of them.
Similarly Keselowski drove his way to the championship this year.
While Jimmie Johnson did come alive toward the end of the season, managing to win back-to-back races, Keselowski kept pace and Johnson was never able to really increase his points lead by much.
Maybe racing a little harder earlier on and trying to go for wins instead of just top fives might have given Jimmie an early lead in the Chase and might have been enough for him to win the championship.