News & Media

Unsecured lug nut dooms Johnson

November 19, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Pit road penalty at Homestead ends championship hopes for No. 48 team

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson was leading Sunday's FordEcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and beginning to get a whiff of his sixth championship in seven years when he came in for a pit stop with 54 laps remaining in the race.

"We were in position and putting the pressure on the 2 car like we needed to," Johnson said of the No. 2 Dodge of Brad Keselowski, the driver Johnson had to beat.

That all changed in a heartbeat on Lap 213 when Johnson came in for what he hoped would be his final stop on pit road. The race lead -- and Johnson's championship hopes -- were initially dashed when a member of his pit crew failed to secure a lug nut on one of his tires after changing it.

As if the subsequent pass-through penalty he had to serve for the missing lug nut wasn't damaging enough, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure just 13 laps later that doomed his chances for good. He ended up completing just 224 of the race's 267 laps and finishing 36th -- while Keselowski secured his first Cup championship by finishing 15th.

"When I returned to the track, I could smell gear oil. And my experience is you never smell your own, you smell someone else's. But clearly I was smelling mine," Johnson said.

It smelled like the end of his quest for a sixth championship, but at least Johnson could take solace in the fact that he did apply some pressure to Keselowski before his effort went awry.

"I would have hated to come out here and do the trash talking that I did to start the week and run 25th all night long," he said. "I'm proud of the fact that we went out there and backed up what we said we could do and we put the pressure on."