Johnson's Title Hopes Take a Hit
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on November 11, 2012 | 8:29 P.M. EST
Johnson made hard impact with the Turn 4 wall on lap 234. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson lost control of his quest for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Johnson, who came into today's race with a seven point advantage over Brad Keselowski, saw his title hopes take a hit on lap 234 when his Lowe’s Chevrolet made contact with the wall after a tire went down.
"We were cruising along, and I think we were going to have a top 10 day, maybe a top five day if things worked out at the end," said Johnson, who was three points behind Keselowski at the time of the impact. "I had a slight vibration starting in the right front. As I was coming off of Turn 4 it went down and straight in the wall it went.
"Another 30, 40 feet around the corner I probably would have just had a flat and not hit the wall, but where it let go I had a direct line into the wall and knocked it down."
The hard impact with the wall sent Johnson's No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet to the garage for repairs, shifting the momentum to Keselowski, who wound up finishing sixth, heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With Johnson now trailing by 20 points, Keselowski needs to finish 15th or better to lock up his first Sprint Cup championship.
"It's way, way out of our control after the problem we had today," Johnson said. "We still have to go to Homestead and race, and anything can happen down there. But not the position you want to be in leaving Phoenix. I feel terrible for my team and how hard those guys work at Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe's, Kobalt Tools and Chevrolet. There was a huge effort for them just to try to get us a championship, and I just hate for our day to turn out as it did today. But that's racing, and we'll go to Homestead and do all we can down there and see how things pan out.
The No. 48 team was able to get Johnson back on track to a 32nd-place finish - his worst since finishing 34th in the other AdvoCare 500 sponsored race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway in early September.
"Losing isn't any fun, but we'll be back next weekend and next year hungrier than ever and do the best we can," Johnson said.