Johnson, team won't dwell on missed chances
July 28, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus had already changed out of his fire suit and was walking quickly and purposefully through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage while Ryan Newman’s Victory Lane interview was blaring from the public address system.
Johnson led a race high 73 laps in Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400, but finished runner-up to Newman -- three seconds shy of a historic fifth Brickyard victory.
Those three seconds were part of valuable time lost on a slow final pit stop that cost Johnson track position and forced the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who spent most of the day out front, to play catch-up in the closing laps.
Knaus called for a four-tire change on the No. 48 Chevrolet with about 27 laps remaining, but a problem changing the right rear tire extended the stop to just over 18-seconds.
Newman came in one lap later, elected for a two-tire stop and was headed back onto the track in just seven seconds.
After the series of green-flag pit stops cycled out and the two were running together on track, Newman held a seven-second lead that Johnson was able to cut in half, but ultimately not overcome.
“We made the right calls, we just didn’t have what we needed there at the end,’’ Knaus said, barely breaking stride as he headed out. “We battled those guys (Newman’s team) all day long. They had a great race car.
“It was the right call for us. We just didn’t execute properly or it would have been fine.’’
Johnson didn’t second-guess the call either. And, he reminded, Newman had a fast No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet -- a car that knocked Johnson off the Coors Light Pole on the final qualifying run.
“Traffic was tough to deal with and tires made a big difference,’’ explained Johnson “The biggest example to me, I was on two (tires) the next to the last stop and Ryan was on four (tires). He was mired in traffic and worked his way through, started to track me down.
“I think that led Chad to his decision for four on our last stop. And with us pitting before the 39 (Newman) it was easy for them to go two at that point. The 39 was coming hard on us.’’
Asked about the strategy after the race, Newman’s crew chief Matt Borland said he had made the decision to make the two-tire stop earlier in the race.
“What they did didn’t affect me,’’ said Borland, who said he was unaware of Johnson’s lengthy pit stop. “We made our decision the second to the last stop, what we were going to do, got ourselves set up for that position.
“We knew we had to do something to win the race, put ourselves in the best tire position. We looked at what the guys did earlier on in the race, taking two tires, taking no tires, and we looked at how many laps we needed to run before we pitted to put ourselves in that good spot.
“It really didn't have a lot to do with what was going on with the 48 at that time. It had more to do with what happened 140 laps before that.”
The silver lining for Johnson, of course, is that his second-place finish further extended his massive points lead to a season-best 75 points with six races left to set the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.
And while obviously disappointed in Sunday’s outcome, he stood loyally by his team, a crew that has put on a master class this season as evidenced by the championship points lead and series best nine top-fives and 14 top-10s.
“What’s on my mind is we win as a team, lose as a team,’’ Johnson said. “There’s been some late-race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted, not a major event like this. But we still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We’ll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by (Monday) afternoon.
“I can go home with a smile on my face, four times. Having a race-winning car like we did, I hate to let this opportunity slip by, but it’s gone and not a lot we can do about it. But we’ll come back next year and try to do it again."