Jimmie Johnson thwarted by pit road incident

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 8, 2014 

NASCAR Pocono Auto Racing

Jimmie Johnson, left, congratulates Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 auto race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

MIKE GROLL — AP

— Jimmie Johnson is mortal again.

At least for now.

A nasty pit road incident in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway derailed Johnson’s attempt to win three consecutive Sprint Cup Series races for the third time in his career.

Johnson’s back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Dover had come after the six-time series champion had gone winless in the first 11 races of the season.

On Lap 73 of 160 and under caution, Johnson completed a two-tire pit stop and exited his stall but immediately slammed into Marcos Ambrose, who was attempting to enter his pit stall.

Both cars suffered damage, but Johnson’s required multiple pit stops to repair. He still ended up rallying for a sixth-place finish.

“Chad (Knaus, crew chief) thought Ambrose was on his way out. He told me there were two out there, but I didn’t know (Ambrose) was trying to get in and we made contact,” Johnson said.

“My car somehow pivoted around the right-front tire changer and carrier (of Justin Allgaier’s team), and I didn’t hit those guys. I was scared to death I was going to hurt someone.”

Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet sat for a few moments perpendicular to pit road, but eventually his crew got him back out on the track and in working order.

“It was just a lot of confusion on pit road,” Johnson said.

Johnson ended up leading five laps as various pit strategies played out. Johnson restarted third on the next-to-last caution in the race, but he was not able to remain in the top five, in part, because he mis-shifted.

“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,” Johnson said.

“Chad made a great call to give me two (tires) to get the track position late in the race; 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.”

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