Johnson Down But Not Out
October 30, 2002 | 12:50 A.M. EST
Johnson battled a loose car all afternoon and Team Lowe's Racing just did not have enough time to make the necessary adjustments to overcome the early setbacks. With only three races remaining in the Winston Cup season there is little room for error, but the team feels there is still enough time to make up the necessary ground in the championship battle.
"This was no heartbreak,” stated Johnson. “We had a loose race car and spun out twice. Luckily I didn't hit anything, but I came close. I brushed the wall during the first one (spin) and the second one I spun out again and luckily didn't hit anything. We just really expected the track to tighten up a lot more, but it didn't. And we were loose. I just kept hanging on. The longer we'd go, the looser it would get and I'd spin out. It's something we didn't need for the big picture, but we're rookies. This stuff is supposed to happen. We'll just go on to the next one (Rockingham). There are three races left and a lot of things can happen. If that No. 20 car finishes 25th, we'll be right back in it."
Not only did Johnson have to battle a loose race car all afternoon, he was forced to deal with the ever changing weather conditions that forced nearly a three hour rain delay just 26 laps into the race. When the race went back to green, the team was able to make some adjustment to help on the short runs, but over long green flag runs, the race car just became to loose for Johnson to handle. On two separate occasions, Johnson lost control of the No. 48 race car and as a result, spun out and narrowly missed the wall on each occasion.
“There's a heck of a lot we could have done to make the Lowe's Monte Carlo better,” explained crew chief Chad Knaus, “But unfortunately once the race starts you can't really undo a lot of the things we did to prepare the race car for this race. It's unfortunate that this happened, but this team has responded to adversity all season long and I know that we'll bounce back from this and be extremely hungry for the next three races.
“It's not the bad days that teach a team how to respond or how to react, it's the good days. If a team is out there running well every week, it's all in how they handle the good times, I feel. The bad times we can all react to that. We can all go through the bad times and make the cars better and work on them after they've been crashed and do all that stuff. That's what we do. We know how to do that. It's when you go out there and you win a lot and you run up front a lot and people are focused on you. That's when it's the hardest.”