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The last race of the "regular season" had the No. 48 team scrambling for the fourth week in a row. After having trouble early in the 400-lap race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the problems continued to mount throughout the night.
The weekend started out on a high note, with Regan Smith filling in for new dad Jimmie Johnson on Friday. Smith qualified 10th, giving the Lowe's Racing team a great pit stall selection. Johnson returned to pilot the No. 48 Kobalt Chevy SS on Saturday and had to start at the rear of the 43-car field due to the driver swap.
Johnson quickly gained ground after the green flag dropped, moving up 17 spots in the first 45 laps. Just a handful of laps later, he reported that the car had become very tight and that he was having trouble driving it. Johnson came to pit road before the first pit stop was scheduled for four new tires, which solved the worst of his handling issues, but he received a pit road speeding penalty in the process. The pass-through penalty resulted in Johnson going two laps down.
The first caution occured on lap 135. Johnson came to pit road for four tires and significant chassis adjustments to help free up the Kobalt Chevy. He remained two laps down but was able to gain a few spots when trouble surfaced once again in the form of electrical issues.
Johnson reported on lap 220 that he had lost power and brought the No. 48 Chevy to the garage. The crew found a short in the alternator and replaced a battery. Johnson returned to the track 24 laps down. He and crew chief Chad Knaus continued to work on the car's handling and log laps. On lap 343, trouble found Johnson yet again as he reported a flat right-front tire.
All in all, it was a tough night but the No. 48 team never quit. Johnson finished 40th, 28 laps down.
The entire Lowe's Racing team will be glad to put the last few weeks of the regular season in the rearview mirror and head to Chicago to kick off the Chase on Sunday!