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Jimmie Johnson overcame two bizarre pit road incidents to finish fifth Sunday in the Geico 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup had a little bit of everything, including two rain delays totaling six hours, 30 minutes. But Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s team still managed their seventh top-five finish in 12 career races at the 1.5-mile track.
Johnson started ninth and took the lead by lap 34. He came in for a green-flag stop on lap 75, and the first of two unusual incidents during the 267-lap event occurred when a NASCAR official indicated that the rear tire changer did not secure all of the lugnuts during the stop even though he had. The confusion created a slow pit stop, and Johnson lost the lead and several positions.
Soon after the stop, the race stopped due to rain. When the race resumed more than five hours later, Johnson pitted for right-side tires immediately. During that stop on lap 149, the jack malfunctioned. The delay cost Johnson numerous positions. Fortunately, his No. 48 Lowe’s machine was tuned up for the remainder of the race, and he drove from 19th to finish fifth.
“The next-to-the-last run, we got ourselves right back in the thick of things,” said Johnson, who has never won Chicagoland. “And unfortunately, just didn’t have the speed at the end there, for that final segment to go race for the end. But, from a jack failing to a call on pit road for a lugnut that was not supposedly on and a variety of issues, it was a great comeback. So we wanted to finish better, of course, but we’re very proud of all the hard work from Hendrick Motorsports, Chad Knaus and this No. 48 Lowe’s race team. We’re off to a good start.”
Matt Kenseth won the Geico 400 to score his 30th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-best sixth of the season and his first at Chicagoland.
Kyle Busch finished .749 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 46 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race. The event was delayed twice due to rain for a total of six hours, 30 minutes. Mist forced nearly a 90-minute delay of the start, while heavier rain forced the race to be halted for more than five hours after 108 laps were complete.
With nine races remaining before a champion is crowned after the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-13 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the second race of the 10-race Chase – is the Sylvania 300 on Sept. 22 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 1 p.m.