Johnson Fights Conditions & Pit Road At Charlotte

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Jimmie Johnson (48) battles Kurt Busch during Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Ryan Willard photo)

CONCORD, N.C. — After a muggy Bank of America 500 Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was left scratching his head at one of his best tracks.

The eight-time Charlotte winner started Sunday’s race from 25th, after inspection issues and practice holds left him struggling on Friday, and just never seemed to make his way to the front of the field in typical Johnsonian fashion.

He charged his way up into the bottom part of the top-10 by the end of the first stage, but his progress stalled out with the heavy traffic that gave many of the front runners a handful with dirty air.

“Mainly it was traffic,” eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. explained later on. “Once you got out of traffic and have a couple laps of a clean race track … you could go really fast. I think everybody’s fighting the same issues; the car is just really unstable in traffic.”

While winning the fall Charlotte race a year ago catapulted Johnson to his record-tying seventh title, he battled traffic and the track, as well as pit road issues, during the race’s final stages on Sunday.

NASCAR and track officials laid down PJ1 traction compound early in the week, in an effort to help better the racing on the top groove of the track. But while it worked in May for the Coca-Cola 600, the same result was not duplicated in the fall.

Many of the top drivers in the sport struggled for grip on the constantly-changing track, including Johnson.

“We battled it from the start of the weekend.” Johnson said. “During the course of the race it was gone and I think that was a better scenario. In the spring I thought things went well, but this fall race they put it down … and however it acted was not the same and not very good for us.”

A series of caution flags towards the end of the event both helped and hurt Johnson, as his team had a major pit road miscue on their final pit stop, but he was able to use restart progress to work his way back up to seventh in the end.

Johnson’s crew didn’t have all the lug nuts tight on his left-rear tire when he pitted with the leaders under caution just prior to 50 laps to go, forcing crew chief Chad Knaus to call Johnson to a stop halfway outside the pit box as Johnson was starting to leave pit road.

The rear changer tightened the lug and Johnson got away, but had to charge from 16th back forward in the closing laps.

Two restarts inside of 10 to go, including one attempt at overtime, allowed him to get back to seventh, but Johnson was still disappointed he couldn’t have gotten a better result.

“It was okay,” Johnson said of his day. “We worked our way up to fourth and then had a little miscue on pit road and restarted 16th and got back up to seventh. We made decent progress … the car was not easy to drive and not fun to drive, but … I could work my way back up through there.”

“… If we would have known there was (going to be) another caution we would just have gone and ran and then came back in … put all our lug nuts back on and then fine. But to go to the end, you get nervous and don’t want to get fined.”

On the positive side, Johnson leaves Charlotte eight points ahead of the cutoff line heading into next weekend’s wild card race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM).

 

About the Writer

jacobseelmanJacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: editor@racechaseronline.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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