Pit Incident Slows Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

Although Jimmie Johnson didn't win for the first time in three weeks, he scored his fourth consecutive top-10 finish Sunday at Pocono. (Photo: Getty Images)

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LONG POND, Pa. - Jimmie Johnson drove his car back to the garage instead of Victory Lane Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

And an incident on pit road might have kept him from a third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. 

Johnson was fifth when he pitted on Lap 73. His team changed two tires and he sped out of his stall as Marcos Ambrose, pitting two stalls ahead, tried to turn into his pit area.

Johnson’s car hit Ambrose’s and spun into Ambrose’s pit stall. The contact damaged the right front of Johnson’s car and dropped him back in traffic. He later led, but it was because of the pit cycle and he was not in position to race for the lead late.

The mistake on pit road proved too much to overcome.

“We just didn’t know who was coming into their pit stall,’’ Johnson said after finishing sixth. 

Crew chief Chad Knaus later took responsibility, telling the team’s spotter to tell Ambrose’s team that.

“I heard two outside,’’ Johnson said. “Chad was spotting me out of the pit and took full responsibility for it. He didn’t know (Ambrose) was ahead of us pulling in. He thought (Ambrose) had left his pit box. Just confusion on pit road. I feel terrible for (Ambrose’s) guys, hurting their racecar and taking them out of a good day.’’

But as Johnson’s car spun, he nearly hit crew members from Justin Allgaier’s team.

“How I didn’t hit those guys is beyond me,’’ Johnson said. “I’m so thankful I didn’t hit those guys. It wouldn’t have been good.’’

After returning to the track, Johnson had to fight his car for a while.

“We had some aero stuff to sort out,’’ Johnson said. “After the second pit stop working on it the car was a lot better. I honestly forgot about it until I felt like we had a shot to win. And Chad made a great call to give me two (tires) to get the track position; just right-side tires were way tighter than what we anticipated in the end and I was kind of hanging on in that last run.”

Johnson also fell back from third to sixth on a late restart.

“I hit the rev chip,’’ he said. “We’ve got a big gap between second and third on your shifting here, because we use third on track. So, from second to third is a big gap and I was trying to get it up as high as I could to accelerate hard in third and I hit the chip and just lost all my forward momentum.” 

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