Pit road penalty thwarts strong run by Jim­mie John­son

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By REID SPENCER

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-

JOLIET, ILL.

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.”

GETTY IM­AGES FOR NASCAR

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.

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