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After qualifying 20th at the 2.5-mile track, Jimmie Johnson immediately began his forward march. By Lap 40, Johnson had propelled his No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS into the top 10. The team made a great pit stop to gain two positions under green and by Lap 66, the three-time Pocono winner had cracked the top five. At Lap 74, Johnson made contact with a competitor on pit road and was forced to return to his pit box to fix the damage.
The No. 48 team worked hard and didn’t lose a lap. The incident sent Johnson to the back of the field in 30th for the restart at Lap 76. Johnson moved steadily through the field and green flag pit stops helped with track position. He was able to move into to the runner-up position by Lap 105. Johnson continued to race in the top 10 for the remainder of the race. A late-race caution showed the No. 48 in the third position after crew chief Chad Knaus called for two right-side tires. Knaus told Johnson he had a faster car than others around him, but on the restart he fell to sixth. Johnson crossed the finish line in sixth but hailed his team for their efforts in earning a great finish with a damaged Chevy.
QUOTING JIMMIE: “We started deep in the field and got ourselves up towards the front. Then we did a two-tire stop. We just didn’t know who was coming into their pit stall. The No. 9 was coming into his pit stall and we were going out. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) thought he was on his way out. He told me there were two out there, but I didn’t know the No. 9 was trying to get in and made contact. I don’t know who it is on the No. 51 car, but God was looking out for him today. My car somehow pivoted around that right-front tire changer and carrier and I didn’t hit those guys. I was scared to death I was going to hurt someone. From there we just went to work and do what the No. 48 does best and grind it out. We thought we had a shot at it. Chad had a great strategy, but that last set of tires was just way too tight and I couldn’t get it done. I couldn’t get it done with my Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, but so stoked for my teammate Dale, Jr. to be in Victory Lane. I’m going to go over there and have a beer with those guys.”
WHAT HAPPENED ON PIT ROAD?
“We took two (tires) and we were leaving pretty quick and Chad (Knaus) was spotting me out of the pit and took full responsibility for it. He didn’t know the No. 9 (Marcos Ambrose) was ahead of us pulling in. He thought the No. 9 had left his pit box. So it was just confusion on pit road. I feel terrible for the No. 9 guys and hurting their race car and taking them out of a good day. It hurt our race car too. But most of all, there was a tire changer and tire carrier on the right front of the No. 51 car and how I didn’t hit those guys is beyond me. And I am so thankful I didn’t hit those guys. It wouldn’t have been good.”
HOW DID IT AFFECT YOUR CAR AFTER THAT?
“We had some aero stuff to sort out. After the second pit stop working on it the car was a lot better. I honestly forgot about it until I felt like we had a shot to win. And Chad made a great call to give me two (tires) to get the track position; just right-side tires were way tighter than what we anticipated in the end and I was kind of hanging on in that last run.”
ON THAT RESTART, IT JUST WOULDN’T GO OR WHAT? WHEN YOU FELL BACK FROM LIKE THIRD TO SIXTH?
“Oh, I hit the rev chip. We’ve got a big gap between second and third on your shifting here, because we use third on track. So, from second to third is a big gap and I was trying to get it up as high as I could to accelerate hard in third and I hit the chip and just lost all my forward momentum.”
OTHER HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FINISHERS: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (1st), Jeff Gordon (8th), Kasey Kahne (42nd)
NEXT RACE: Michigan International Speedway, Sunday June 15 at 1p.m. ET on TNT/MRN Radio