It has been an interesting weekend for reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. On Friday news circulated around the garage and the media that post race inspections after Dover last week showed Johnson and teammate Mark Martin passed inspection but just barely.
No penalties were issued to either team. Johnson and his crew chief spent most of Friday answering questions and defending each other. Once Johnson got back in the race car he was fast.
In the first practice on Friday he ran 11 laps. Johnson ran a fast lap on lap nine. He ran a 31.1 second lap, that was good enough for second on the speed charts. Although they were mostly in qualifying set up.
In qualifying they had a late draw but they could not get the speed out of the car during the qualifying lap and ended up starting 11th.
On Saturday the conditions were similar to Friday, and once again Johnson was up at the top of the Charts.
He ran 23 laps total in the first practice. His fastest lap of 31.1 seconds was his first lap run but remained on the top of the charts the entire session.
During final practice session it was all about tweaking the setup. Johnson was not completely happy with the handling of the car. The team got to work, by the end of practice Johnson was a bit more comfortable with the car.
He ran a total of 47 laps and his fastest was once his first lap, with a speed of 31.2 seconds.
Johnson moved forward early and was quickly in the top 10 and was moving forward. After two early cautions he said told crew chief Knaus on Lap Seven he was tight on the bottom. You would not have known this as he was moving forward.
He needed to run the bottom late in the run to pass cars during at the begining of the race. Johnson was in the top three before lap 50.
Johnson took the lead on lap 63 from teammate Brad Keselowski who had cycled through as the leader after green flag pit stops.
When caution waved for Reed Sorenson they came in leading the race but left in sixth after a slow pit stop.
On the restart Johnson began to run down the leader Greg Biffle. Less than 25 laps later he passed Biffle for the lead.
During another caution pit stop, while the other leaders took only two tires, Johnson took on four tires and was mired back in traffic.
During the final caution they took two tires to get themselves back up in the top three, but the two tires hurt them late when others had four tires.
They slid backwards on the restart and finished ninth after having a dominating car throughout the race. They were not able to rebound and regain the lost positions.
Rarely do we see Johnson and his team struggle late in a race like they did. Knaus did take responsibilty for the call that might have cost them the win.
Don’t expect them to struggle and don’t be fooled Johnson ensured they will figure out what went wrong on the car on Sunday.
The finish did cost them in the standings they are now sitting 18 points behind Martin who finished in seventh.
Next week Jen Preston will be back with her Lugnut Report!