By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas — If overcoming adversity is what judges if a team is championship material, then go ahead and award Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus their seventh Sprint Cup after their effort in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.
Johnson started 11th and finished fourth, but its everything that happened in between that made the night really special.
On a pit stop during the competition caution at lap 31, Johnson made contact with the rear of eventual race winner Kyle Busch’s car. This caused severe damage to the front of Johnson’s car. Under the first restart with the damage at lap 34, Johnson said his car was in bad shape. Once repairs were made under at lap 138 things improved.
“When they put tape on it, the car stopped buffeting and it was actually smooth again. There was a hole up there and the air was fluttering and shaking the hood and rattling the car around,” Johnson said. “Once they put the tape on that went away, but the shape of the nose was pretty bad. I know we lost some downforce with that.”
Johnson worked his way back into the top-10, but then while putting on lap 212 a caution came out for a crash involving Josh Wise. Johnson would get trapped a lap down in a bizarre chain of events, but then would take a wave around under the caution to get back on the lead lap.
Johnson would work his way back into the top-10 in the closing stages of the race, when all hell broke out in front of him at lap 294.
“[Austin Dillon] entered in the middle [lane], and by the middle of the corner tried to shut the door. When he came down, it was close. But when I saw [Dillon] pulling down I’m like man don’t do it. [Denny Hamlin] is going to be there, and isn’t going to lift. It was a slight touch from them, and I think [Dillon] had it under control, problem was I was still back there wide open in the gas and ran into the back of [Dillon] and sent him into the wall.”
Johnson turned very sideways after making contact with Dillon, but was fortunate to regain control of his car. When the race restarted on lap 302 Johnson lined up in sixth, and from there he fought hard for a solid fourth place finish.
Johnson was asked if a race like Saturdays, where he overcame so much for a good finish, was more fulfilling than some wins.
“Yeah,” Johnson answered. “I mean we hate to have mistakes and issues, but when I got out of the car and saw the nose and how damaged it was, and to be that competitive and race for fourth I feel pretty good about that.”
Image: Boyd Adams, Courtesy of Rubbings Racing