By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
JIMMIE JOHNSON ENCOURAGED DESPITE PIT ROAD SNAFU
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Despite a pit road problem that ruined his winning chances, Jimmie Johnson was surprisingly chipper after his sixth-place run in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan Speedway.
Johnson led 37 laps, four fewer than race winner Kyle Larson, but the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion lost 10 seconds on pit road when his second can of fuel failed to engage properly with the intake during a green-flag stop from the lead on Lap 108 of 200.
Under the fourth and final caution on Lap 187, Johnson brought his No. 48 Chevrolet to pit road for tires and restarted eighth on Lap 192. Though he gained only two positions before the finish, Johnson was delighted with the speed in his car.
He also took solace from teammate Chase Elliott’s second-place finish.
“Yeah, just a very good day for all of Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, one of our cars didn’t win today. We had an issue with some fueling on pit road that dropped us back. Then I thought I had a right-rear tire going down.
“To rally back and end up sixth is good. We’re working hard, and it’s nice to see the speed showing. There’s been a lot of hard work for months and months and months going into this. We didn’t see the consistency in speed that we wanted (earlier in the season), but this weekend we’ve had it from day one until now. It’s going in the right direction.”
Sprint Cup teams at Michigan ran a lower-downforce competition package this week, but Johnson believes the speed his team found at Michigan will carry over with the current 2016 rules.
“This was the 2017 package, or the proposed 2017 package, so we will see more next weekend in Darlington, although, Darlington is such a unique race track on its own,” he said. “We feel like we’re doing the right things to get speed in our cars, and fortunately we still have a few months before we have to race for a championship at Homestead.”
MORE PIT ROAD ISSUES RUIN TRUEX’S DAY
Sunday brought an all-too-familiar story for Martin Truex Jr.
Fast car. Glitch on pit road. Disappointing finish.
On lap 58, Truex passed Kevin Harvick for the lead after advancing briskly from his 20th-place starting position. During a green-flag pit stop on Lap 65, however, the jack dropped before the rear tire changed had tightened the lug nuts, forcing Truex’s car to jack the car back up and finish the job.
In the process, the left rear quarter panel of Truex’s No. 78 Toyota was damaged, adversely affecting the aerodynamics of the car.
Truex finished a disappointing 20th in a car that could have contended for the victory.
“We were never the same after that pit stop,” Truex who has had a litany of difficulties on pit road this season. “We made a number of unscheduled stops to try to fix the problem, but the damage was just too severe to overcome.
“Let another strong performance slip away.”
BIZARRE PIT ROAD INCIDENT KOs JOEY LOGANO
Coors Light Pole winner Joey Logano’s hopes for a second straight victory at Michigan International Speedway disappeared during his final pit stop on Lap 188.
Logano had to drive around Kevin Harvick’s car to reach his pit stall and parked it near the outer boundary. As Harvick exited his pit box, he ran over the hose attached to the air gun of the rear tire changer, sending the gun flying forward onto pit road.
The snafu cost Logano 10 positions. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford restarted 17th on Lap 192 and drove to 10th at the finish.
“We kind of ended on a down note there,” Logano said. “We came back down pit road there at the end to take four (tires), and somehow I guess the 4 car (Harvick) hooked our air gun and sent the rear air gun flying, and we lost time in the pits.
“We were the last car on the lead lap on that last run and got back to 10th so I’m proud of the effort this weekend. The pole was nice. We just weren’t as competitive as we were in the spring race. Our car drove the same—everyone just got better.”