Last week at Watkins Glen can be summed up in the phrase “Expect the Unexpected” based on the final lap. So how exactly can race fans remember what happened at Michigan?
It’s pretty simple on the surface because in my estimation, it can be said like this…”I was six laps from glory.” Well, that’s at least how one can sum up the day of Jimmie Johnson, but in retrospect the signs were there as to what was happening, it was a matter of hoping it didn’t happen to him.
During the race, both Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon experienced engine problems, both of which were diagnosed as broken valve springs. Gordon drives for Hendrick Motorsports, while Stewart gets his engines and equipment from Hendrick. This caused a lot of worries in the teams that ran Hendrick equipment, specifically Johnson and fellow teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson already had the experience of replacing an engine earlier in the weekend, hoping that the problem was solved, and for a long while it was. Despite starting out back, Johnson was running down cars and to the lead like the shark in Jaws.
He got the lead on a late restart following the wreck of Trevor Bayne, as he passed Brad Keselowski with 10 laps remaining, and was on cruise control as no one was closing in on him.
Suddenly, six laps to go, Johnson was leading with Greg Biffle in second, who was also able to get by Keselowski. Biffle closed in really quick in the second turn, and then the radio on Johnson’s team.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” was the exact words the 5-time champion screamed. In one moment the problem that Johnson’s teammate and Hendrick affiliate experienced earlier bit him. He tried to nurse it around the track to the finish, but less than a half lap later, white smoke suddenly came out the tailpipes and out the rear of the car.
“That’s it; it’s dead,” Johnson said over the radio as the caution waved, and the Lowe’s Chevrolet made it’s way to the garage.
Johnson never gave an interview after the race, as he went back to the hauler, changed from his driving suit into his casual wear, still wearing the Lowe’s pit cap provided to the teams, and went to the motor home. It was an ending that went from seeing a point lead extended to a new leader take over, ironically being eventual race winner Biffle.
That’s exactly what makes NASCAR so unique in some aspects because just when you think it’s done, it all changes. Watkins Glen was the beginning, Michigan was the next chapter.
Up next is Bristol. Wonder what unexpected moment will happen that night?
RESULTS: 1-Biffle 2-Keselowski 3-Kahne 4-Earnhardt Jr. 5-Ambrose 6-Edwards 7-Bowyer 8-Newman 9-Menard 10-Truex Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Hamlin 13-Kyle Busch 16-Harvick 17-Kenseth 27-Johnson 28-Gordon 32-Stewart
CAUTIONS: 8 for 35 laps. Lap 7-9 (#38 spin-T4), 65-73 (#5, 42, 47, 55 accident-T4), 77-80 (#9, 78 accident-T4), 90-92 (#20 accident-T3), 137-140 (#51 accident-T3), 144-147 (Debris), 182-186 (#21 accident-T1), 197-199 (Oil on track from #48).
LEAD CHANGES: 26 among 13 drivers. Martin 1-35, Keselowski 36-38, Johnson 39-42, Hornish Jr. 43-45, Martin 46-64, Kenseth 65-69, Truex Jr. 70, Bowyer 71-89, Truex Jr. 90-100, Biffle 101-110, Hornish Jr. 111-112, Menard 113, Earnhardt Jr. 114-123, Johnson 124-125, Keselowski 126-128, Biffle 129-137, Earnhardt Jr. 138-152, Johnson 153-165, Keselowski 166-168, Edwards 169, Hornish Jr. 170-173, Hamlin 174, Menard 175-181, Cassill 182, Keselowski 183-190, Johnson 191-194, Biffle 195-201.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 44 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 144.662 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.416 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-10, Wild Cards): 1. Biffle, 823 points; 2. Kenseth, -20; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -22; 4. Johnson, -28; 5. Keselowski, -47; 6. Truex Jr, -60; 7. Bowyer, -66; 8. Harvick, -85; 9. Stewart, -95; 10. Hamlin, -96. WILD CARDS: Kahne (11th, 2 wins), Newman (13th, 1 win)