News & Media


Johnson not shaken by defeat at Chicagoland

September 17, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Jimmie Johnson feels like he is in great shape moving forward in the Chase after his runner-up finish on Sunday. (Getty Images)

No. 48 car failed to win Chase opener despite leading race-high 172 laps

JOLIET, Ill. -- For a guy who led a race-high 172 laps but didn't win Sunday's Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, Jimmie Johnson sure didn't look too upset on pit road afterward.

That's because he wasn't.

After finishing second to race winner Brad Keselowski, Johnson said he lost to the team that had the better car at race's end and that he was satisfied with second place.

"All 10 tracks in this Chase have been really good for us, so I like our chances over the next nine. I'd like to be in Victory Lane, but we're not. So I'll take second and move on to the next one."

--JIMMIE JOHNSON

"They did a great job and made their car better," Johnson said of Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge shortly after climbing from his own No. 48 Chevrolet. "We just kind of held our own. It's kind of tough to adjust on it when you're dominating all day. But those guys came up there and got it together, especially at the end."

The victory vaulted Keselowski into the lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings for the first time in his career, three points ahead of Johnson. The second race in the 10-race Chase is at New Hampshire this Sunday, and Johnson said he preferred to look on the positive side of his run in the Chase opener.

"It's a really good way to start this Chase," Johnson said. "All 10 tracks in this Chase have been really good for us, so I like our chances over the next nine. I'd like to be in Victory Lane, but we're not. So I'll take second and move on to the next one."

Johnson even refused to be drawn into any kind of controversy after his crew chief, Chad Knaus, argued with a NASCAR official that Keselowski cut Johnson off as the two tried to merge onto the race track following their final pit stops with 35 laps to go. Johnson entered the pits for that stop with the lead, but came out behind Keselowski after Keselowski's team ripped off a 12.9-second pit stop, putting on four fresh tires and packing in as much fuel as they needed to get the fast No. 2 Dodge to the finish.

"He came up real early. I was on the bottom lane and he pulled up right in front of me," Johnson said. "It's kind of a gray area as to how early you can come up. It impeded my progress. I mean, I had to change lanes and change directions as he came up on the race track. I felt like he came up a little early.

"Is it worth losing the race over? No. But if NASCAR had agreed with us and changed [their ruling], I would have smiled. If I could have gotten it changed, great. If not, it's not worth throwing a fit about."

Johnson admitted that even if NASCAR had put him back in the lead at that point, he probably would not have been able to hold off the faster Keselowski over the final 35 laps.

"He checked out and made it through traffic pretty good," he said. "That last segment, I think they had us covered pretty good. They were kind of building on it the last two or three runs, and on that last run they definitely were better. I would have had my hands full to hold him off, even if that had been the case."

Johnson said he doesn't expect Keselowski to go away in this Chase, either.

"We've seen them coming on all summer -- especially on these bigger tracks," Johnson said. "I figured he would be a player in [Sunday's] race and, sure enough, he was. I would expect that for all these other 1.5-mile tracks in the Chase as well."

Meanwhile, the smiling Johnson reiterated that he was not displeased with the way his own Chase started. He is attempting to win his sixth championship after having his streak of five consecutive titles snapped last season by Tony Stewart.

"I feel great. We qualified on the pole and led a lot of laps," Johnson said. "Sure, we would have liked to have won the race. But this was a good start to the Chase. I'm very, very happy. There are a lot of great tracks for us ahead in the Chase -- and I noticed a lot of the other Chase guys were out of fuel as I was coming around to get the checkers. So as long as we can start building a gap over some of the Chasers and then go start figuring out a strategy to win a race or two, we'll be fine."