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Johnson frustrated again as strong run falls short

April 15, 2012, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com



Johnson frustrated again as strong run falls short

FORT WORTH, Texas -- For the second consecutive race, Jimmie Johnson had a dominant package. But again, in the end, he failed to win Hendrick Motorsports' 200th career Cup Series victory.

Late in the Samsung Mobile 500 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson first was held up by lapped traffic, enabling race winner Greg Biffle to pass him with 21 laps to go. Then, running less than a second behind Biffle and trying to overtake him, Johnson smacked the Turn 3 wall.

"I was very proud of the effort ... but everybody knows we're here. We're awfully close to it."

--JIMMIE JOHNSON

It was game over as with Johnson fell three seconds behind Biffle with 14 laps remaining. In the end, he finished 3.235 seconds behind.

But don't get the idea his fifth runner-up finish at Texas was any consolation prize.

"Man, second sucks -- I wish we could have won," Johnson said. "I'm definitely disappointed but we had a great race car and there's a lot to be proud of here. Our pit stops were just amazing all night long. We had a very, very fast race car and a little bit more respect through some lapped traffic ... it could've been a little different."

The proof of that was Johnson led a race-high 156 of 334 laps, to 90 for Biffle's No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. But like it had at Martinsville in the race before Texas, it didn't matter.

"At the end the 16 really probably the last two or three runs the 16 and I were pretty equal [and] run pretty similar lap times," Johnson said, "And right before the last pit stop I got caught in some traffic, [Biffle] got to me and came out of the pits and I was pacing him and had a second-and-a-half lead.

"I just got tangled up in some lapped traffic and [Biffle] made a great move and got by me. And then I was pacing him from there and didn't have anything left to go get him. I tried and ran out of grip going into Turn 3 and drilled the fence."

And that brought on the second consecutive dose of disappointment for Johnson -- really for all of Hendrick Motorsports.

At Martinsville Johnson led 111 of the last 150 laps. But when Johnson was involved in a three-car tangle while running second on a green-white-checkered restart, Ryan Newman scooted through the melee to win.

Saturday night, Johnson said Newman was already a lap down and "didn't show much respect to myself, the leader. Before I know it the 16 was there on the side of me and got by."

Johnson's mistake a couple laps later killed his chances but he said Martinsville was the worse experience of the two.

"Martinsville [was more frustrating] because we were much closer to the end," Johnson said. "But they're both frustrating -- the racer in me just wants to win. I was very proud of the effort ... but everybody knows we're here. We're awfully close to it."

That's been the case, not only for Johnson but his Hendrick teammates, as all four HMS cars scored top-10 finishes. Jeff Gordon led two laps and finished fourth. Kasey Kahne battled to log his first top-10 finish of the year, in seventh. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 10th.

"I thought Jimmie had it [Saturday] night," Kahne said. "I wasn't worried about it, I thought it was over. Every time I looked up there the No. 48 was leading. Then, I guess 15 [laps] to go I looked up and the No. 16 was leading. Then I thought 'well maybe not.'

"Those guys have been working hard since before I got here. They've been trying to get that 200th. It would be great to get it soon. Any one of the four, we need to get it done and get past that."

"We've been really close over the last five or six months," said Johnson, who scored Hendrick's 199th victory, last fall at Kansas -- the coming weekend's venue. "You look through last year, even through different points, leading a lot of races and didn't execute at the end for whatever reason.

"It's nice to be running well. It's nice to be in this position. But I want to get back to our winning ways really soon."

But Johnson made no bones about the fact that winning was all that he wanted to do, not spend much time anticipating the special event or contemplating a shortfall.

"To be honest [not getting the 200th] hasn't played much on my mind because I just want to win," Johnson said. "I know winning is what my job is about, winning is what Hendrick Motorsports is about and if we win we'll take care of the 200th.

"I seem to think about the 200th after the fact and think, 'Man, Martinsville could have been an amazing 1-2-3 [Gordon and Johnson led and Earnhardt was in the top five on the critical restart]. This weekend, previous weekends -- I think about it more after the fact, not leading up to or during the event."

Watch Jimmie Johnson's highlights from the Samsung Mobile 500 below: