In a race that saw broken caution lights, Kim Kardashian, and the two hometown boys fall back quickly, Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus made a great call during the last caution to help bring the No. 48 Lowe's Chevorlet team its 49th win and a second in a row after last week's win at Auto Club Speedway.
The Shelby American GT 350 had many surprises.
Kurt Busch was on the pole, after breaking the qualifying record but ended the race in 35th place, eight laps down after the No. 1 of Jamie McMurray and the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya got into each other and took Busch with them.
The other hometown hopeful, Kyle Busch, finished in 15th place and on the lead lap. He received a penalty after entering pit road too fast while he was in second place.
There were two cautions totaling eight laps for malfunctioning caution lights, which kept turning on despite there not being a caution.
At one point, there were only 12 cars on the lead lap but thanks to the “wave around” rule, it put 21 cars back on the lead lap. In the end, 23 cars finished on the lead lap.
The race finally went head-to-head after the final caution, when Johnson and his teammate, Jeff Gordon, pulled ahead of the rest of the pack. However, the difference between the two was that Johnson was on four fresh tires while Gordon was only on two.
Gordon took over the lead from laps 237 to 251, when Johnson passed underneath him and sped away for the win. He had only led one lap previously while Gordon led a total of 219. Eventually, Kevin Harvick caught up with Gordon and took over second place.
The decision to take two tires was between Gordon and his crew chief, Steve Letarte. They thought more people would take two, but obviously, they were wrong.
“You know, if we won the race we'd look like geniuses—Steve would have,” he said of the choice. “The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a genius. That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in—to make that call.”
Despite a lugnut issue on pit road, Johnson and his crew, led by Chad Knaus, overcame car issues and worked through traffic for the win.
Is he lucky? Some might think so.
But he can also drive a car.
After today's win, he becomes the all-time leader on 1.5 mile tracks.
When asked about making choices on the pit box, team owner Rick Hendrick said Knaus studies races and knows when and how to make the right calls. He said the duo of Johnson/Knaus seldom make a mistake.
Knaus was asked about making the two versus four tire call and the difference between his call and No. 24 crew chief Letarte; he praised Letarte for his efforts.
Knaus said he had a plan and assumed everyone else would take four tires as well.
“There wasn't a wrong call to make. They came in first, they wanted to maintain track position because it's so critical. The only way for us to beat them was for us to do something different,” Knaus said of his call from on top of the pit box. “I didn't know what he was doing. Steve is a fantastic crew chief, he is a great teammate...and he did not make the wrong call. He did what he thought was right to win the race.”
Does the team feel they're peaking too soon?
Johnson says no.
In the funny-numbers game the Hendrick team likes to play, Hendrick Motorsports led all but 48 laps.
The remainder of the top 10 are Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Greg Biffle.
Photo Courtesy: Farrah Kaye