Pit road penalty thwarts strong run by Jimmie Johnson
NASCAR Wire Service
— Jimmie Johnson had mixed feelings about his 12th-place run in Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
On the positive side, Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet showed excellent speed in the opening race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The six-time Sprint Cup champion led a race-high 118 laps, but he drew a pit road speeding penalty during a green-flag stop on lap 234 of 270, and that infraction cost Johnson a shot at victory. After serving a pass-through penalty, he fell to 18th in the running order but rallied to finish 12th.
“(I’m) very proud of this Lowe’s team, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “We’re digging. I’m just… I just can’t believe I got in trouble down there leaving the pits. I feel terrible for these guys.
“It should have been a top-five day, but I will back down pit road (speed) even more and try not to make that mistake. Hats off to the team for our fast Lowe’s Chevrolet. I just screwed up.”
The penalty took Johnson completely by surprise.
“I’m making adjustments, and I was dumbfounded that happened,” he said. “You can’t argue it. Maybe a mistake on our part somewhere, definitely a mistake on my side, but I by no way, shape or form thought that I was speeding.
“I was probably the slow-
est down pit road all day just to try to avoid it—and got nailed. I will soak on it tonight and come back next week and be at 100 percent again and get ready to take this Lowe’s car to Victory Lane.”
Johnson leaves Chicagoland eighth in the Chase standings, but his position may be in jeopardy after his No. 48 Chevrolet failed post-race laser inspection station by a slight margin. If NASCAR imposes a penalty for the infraction, it will be announced later this week.
Joey Logano starts chase with runner-up finish
Joey Logano had a fast car at Chicagoland—just not quite fast enough to move through traffic and lead laps.
But the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford took advantage of fresh tires on an overtime restart and surged from sixth to second in the final two laps, trailing only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 winner Martin Truex Jr. at the finish of the opening race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“Just overall very proud of what this 22 team was able to do all weekend,” Logano said. “Brought a very fast race car, one that was capable of running top-three for sure. Just took us a while to get to that point.”
Logano led only one lap, and that came during a cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the race. But Todd Gordon brought the No. 22 Ford to the pits under the final caution, and Logano took full advantage.
“Any time a caution comes out late like that, that’s the definition of pressure for a pit crew,” Logano said. “You’re in the Chase, there’s a lot on the line, you’re coming down to the end to win a race. They executed and beat the 11 (Denny Hamlin) off of pit road.
“Couldn’t be more proud of the way they handled the pressure and the way the pressure made them better. That’s pretty neat. It’s a big thing to look forward to through the next nine weeks. We can handle it. Showed it today. Can’t wait to get to New Hampshire and continue this momentum.
“Obviously a second-place finish gives us a decent cushion for the next couple races, but we got to keep attacking the way we are right now.”
Gamble pays off for Ryan Blaney
Being outside of the Chase field can have certain advantages.
Ryan Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing crew chief Jeremy Bullins knew they had absolutely nothing to lose when they opted to stay out on old tires and led the field to green for a two-lap overtime in Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Though Blaney was a sitting duck for the new tires of race winner Martin Truex Jr., Blaney held fourth place in the first Chase race, narrowly losing a drag race to Chase Elliott for the third position.
“The decision wasn’t difficult at all,” Blaney said of the choice to stay out. “We kind of made that decision before everyone else came, and we had nothing to lose as far as points. I wish a couple more cars stayed out.
“You never know. Those guys were on me so fast. We had a really good car all day. We started way back in the field (22nd) and made it up there pretty quickly. We got our car decent at the end. We gambled, and I prefer to do that. I prefer to take a gamble to stay out and try to hold those guys off.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, leads Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday in Joliet, Ill.