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The 2012 season ended prematurely due to a broken drivetrain.
Jimmie Johnson has historically been a leader, not a follower, when it comes to success on the racetrack. But somewhere along the way in the last two seasons, he's become a driver who seems to get behind too often and is forced to play catch-up.
Last season's final two races at Phoenix and Homestead were two perfect examples.
At Phoenix, Johnson once again displayed a bad habit that he acquired in 2011 and continued in 2012: falling behind early far too often in the course of a season. Not coincidentally, such an action would ultimately take him out of the championship battle in both seasons.
And as Brad Keselowski continued to add ground—literally and figuratively—as the race wore on, Johnson continued to slip back even further.
Late in the race, Johnson was trailing Kes by something like 15 positions and essentially overpowered his car to the point where a right front tire blew out from the undue pressure being exerted by its driver, sending Johnson into the wall, all but ending his day.
As a result, Keselowski went to the season finale at Homestead with a 20-point lead over Johnson. While not an insurmountable lead, it continued to add to the way Keselowski had exerted his presence upon Johnson throughout the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, and how the eventual champ continually got into the head of the former champ in a way that no other driver ever has.
At Homestead, Johnson still had a fighting chance left, if for nothing else because he was Jimmie Johnson, five-time champ. It would be an uphill climb, but it was possible—until the curse of Keselowski struck Johnson again.
Johnson fell behind early. Yet when it came time to make his trademark move up through the pack to catch the leaders, Johnson went in the exact opposite direction.
The harder he pushed, the more he fell behind. Something was bound to give—and ultimately it did.
First, as the race began to close towards the checkered flag, a dropped lug nut during a pit stop resulted in a penalty against Johnson and the No. 48 team. Not much later, and again while Johnson was pushing his Chevrolet to the limits and beyond, the drivetrain in JJ's ride gave up the ghost.
And with it, so went his last chance at championship No. 6.