NASCAR: Why can’t Jimmie Johnson get into the playoffs?

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Jimmie Johnson has returned to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023, but the seven-time champion can’t win an eighth championship this year.

After spending the last two seasons in IndyCar, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has returned to the Cup Series for the 2023 season, joining Petty GMS Motorsports (now Legacy Motor Club) as both a part-time driver and a co-owner.

With the No. 48, the number he used in all 686 of his starts with Hendrick Motorsports from 2001 to 2020, still being used by Rick Hendrick’s team for Alex Bowman’s Chevrolet entry, Johnson is driving the No. 84 Chevrolet whenever and wherever he competes in 2023.

A full schedule hasn’t been announced for the 47-year-old El Cajon, California native. His only confirmed race, aside from this past Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, is the inaugural race at the Chicago Street Course in early July.

Jimmie Johnson already knows that he won’t win an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship this year.

Drivers can be granted playoff waivers if they miss a race or multiple races during the regular season, meaning that they can still make it to the postseason as long as they would either still qualify on points or because they won a race.

The 16 playoff spots officially go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.

If there are fewer than 16 winners, the remaining spots are filled based on the point standings. If there are more than 16 winners, the tiebreaker among single-race winners becomes points; all multi-race winners qualify since there can be no more than 13 of them in the 26-race regular season.

Decisions on playoff waivers are made on a case-by-case basis, though they are generally a no-brainer and there is little reason to believe that they will be turned down when a driver unexpectedly misses a race.

With that being said, this precedent only holds true for full-time drivers.

Part-time drivers, even those who are eligible for Cup Series points, aren’t eligible for the playoffs, thus eliminating Johnson from competing for the 2023 title — even if he wins multiple races and would otherwise lock up a playoff spot.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Despite the fact that Johnson recently teased that he could change his plans and run full-time, it has since been confirmed that he will not be doing so. He will not be competing in this Sunday afternoon’s race at Auto Club Speedway.