Frustrating Ending for Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

Johnson trails Kenseth by four points at the halfway point of the Chase. (Photo: Getty Images)

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CONCORD, N.C. - It would have been the perfect ending for Jimmie Johnson. Dominating victory, takes the points lead and becomes the all-time winningest NASCAR Sprint Cup driver at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Then the caution waved 27 laps from the finish for debris on the backstretch. Gone was Johnson’s advantage. Gone would be his chance at winning. Gone would be the points lead.

Instead of celebrating, Johnson finished fourth and fell a point further behind series leader Matt Kenseth. Johnson trails Kenseth by four points at the halfway point of the Chase.

“It’s not where you want to be,’’ Johnson said of his finish after leading 130 laps. “Certainly need to watch the video to see what happened with the caution. To have a caution debris stop the race when you’re controlling it and have a good thing going, it is awfully frustrating. We’ll take fourth. It’s not the end of the world. Every point matters.’’

Johnson then noted that instead of trailing Kenseth in the points, he “should be one or two ahead if this turned out right.’’

Kenseth remained the points leader after his third-place finish.

“It probably helped us since (Johnson) was going to win without a caution and we ended up finishing in front of him,’’ said Kenseth, who started 20th.

When the final caution waved, the question was if teams would change two or four tires.

Kasey Kahne’s team changed two tires and exited pit road with the lead. Jeff Gordon, whose team changed two tires, nipped Johnson, whose team changed four tires.

That was critical.

By exiting second, Gordon restarted on the front row with Kahne. Johnson was stuck on the inside of the second row.

“We were inches from beating (Gordon) out,’’ Johnson said. “Starting on the front row, I think, it would have been a much different result for us.’’

Had Johnson been on the front row, he could have avoided the problems he had on the restart when he slipped and fell to seventh.

“I pushed (Kahne) off into Turn 1,’’ Johnson said. “Evidently, I was too close to him and in his wake and my car washed up a little bit. As I started to leave the bottom, you could see (Kyle Busch) and a couple of guys get inside of me. Just lost track position, which was unfortunate. I just lost too much.’’

Kenseth benefitted to keep the points lead after struggling part of the race.

“This track there’s a feel I always look for and if I don’t have it, I can’t go very fast and I can’t pass anybody,’’ Kenseth said.

It wasn’t until the third adjustment by crew chief Jason Ratcliff that Kenseth said “made the car happy and made me happy and we were able to start making some ground.’’

It was enough to keep Johnson behind him another week in the Chase.

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