Somewhat lost amidst all the excitement and hoopla of the pending winner-take-all championship battle in Sunday's season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is reflection on the one driver who won't be in the thick of things for the first time in six seasons.
Yes, Jimmie Johnson, who won an incredible five consecutive Sprint Cup championships from 2006 through 2010, will be nothing more than an interested observer of sorts in Sunday's Ford 400.
We all knew it was inevitable that Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, the entire No. 48 race team and the overall Hendrick Motorsports organization were eventually going to have to yield to another driver, team and organization. But more so the way it happened is what's really surprising.
For all intents and purposes, Johnson was a virtual non-factor in much of this year's 10-race Chase. Sure, mathematically he was in it to win up until the last few races, but the underlying aura that propelled Johnson and Knaus the last five years just seemed lost – or at least lessened – this season.
There's no pointing a finger of blame at anyone. It just happened. This just wasn't Johnson's year.
Many things materialized that ultimately cost Johnson, maybe not so much individually but rather collectively. There were a variety of elements that added up to him not winning No. 6.
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