NASCAR Notebook: Johnson 22nd after dominating performance
The NASCAR notebook …
BROOKLYN, Mich. ó Jimmie Johnson tried hard to be philosophical after a dominating performance in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race was ruined by a dry gas tank.
The three-time reigning Cup champion led 145 of the 200 laps in the LifeLock 400 and was out front when he ran out of gas two laps from the end. Johnson wound up coasting the rest of the way to a 22nd-place finish.
Greg Biffle, who had been dueling with Johnson, ran out of gas and lost the lead on the final lap, giving the win to Mark Martin, who also ran out of gas but was able to coast across the finish line.
“On the bright side of things, I’m really happy with the performance we had here and we really closed the gap on these guys here a Michigan,” said Johnson, who has yet to win on Michigan’s 2-mile oval in 15 tries. “We’ll take our lumps and go to the next one.”
Biffle said he would probably not have run out of gas and might have won if Johnson hadn’t challenged him and then taken the lead with six laps to go.
“I guess if we would have held back we would have finished second or third or the 16 would have run out of gas and we would have won,” Johnson said. “I am disappointed about the fuel. The 48, myself, whatever it is, we don’t get the best fuel mileage and we are always fast.
“So I will take being fast and lose some every now and then to fuel mileage.”
JUNIOR’S DAY: Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another so-so day in what so far has been a mediocre season, finishing 14th.
A year ago, Earnhardt squeezed 55 laps out of his last tank of gas to win this race. But he never got into contention Sunday.
Earnhardt, in his fourth race with new crew chief Lance McGrew, said, “We worked hard on the car and we had it real good at one point. I was real happy. Then, near the end of the race, the last quarter of the race, we got off a little bit. We had about a 10th-place car maybe, but we were trying to save fuel at the end and gave up a couple spots.
“Not as many people ran out as we thought would.”
But Earnhardt, who moved from 20th to 18th in the season points, saw some good signs for his No. 88 Chevrolet team.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” he said. “We ran pretty good in the race. We have to get a little bit better and we are definitely seeing some signs of improvement.”
LEADING MAN: Series points leader Tony Stewart, coming off his first points victory as an owner-driver a week earlier in Pocono, drove to a quiet seventh-place finish.
His lead over runner-up Jeff Gordon slipped from 71 to 47 points, but Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, was feeling pretty good about his day.
“We ran out of fuel 100 feet from the finish line,” Stewart said. “I’m really proud of (crew chief) Darian Grubb and everybody on our team. We’ve been running well and we just missed it a bit today. … But we’ve been good all year and, today, to say we had a bad day and ended up seventh is pretty good.”
Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman had a tougher day, seeing his string of six straight top-10 finishes end. He wound up 23rd, the first driver a lap down to the leaders.
“We bottom line was we just didn’t have it together today,” Newman said. “We changed the right rear spring on pit road, which was not the ideal thing to do. But it was a good change for us and made the car better. We just ran out of time.”
PLAYFUL BANTER: Singer Kid Rock served as grand marshal of the race and new Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz as honorary starter.
During a press conference prior to the race, the pair discussed a number of topics ranging from NASCAR to the Michigan economy. Schwartz was evened asked to name his favorite Kid Rock song.
“Cocky,” said Schwartz, referring to Kid Rock’s 2001 single. “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.”
With an impressed look on his face, Kid Rock said, “He’s knows the lyrics, too. He’s the best coach we’ve ever had in Detroit.”
“Let’s see if you’re saying that in six months,” Schwartz quipped.
Kid Rock noted that he usually cheers for driver Tony Stewart with whom he has been friends for some time. Schwartz said it’s obvious where his allegiance lies.
“It’s hard to root against Joe Gibbs because of his affiliation with the NFL,” the first-year Lions coach said of the team owner and former Washington Redskins coach. “But I know where my bread is buttered. I’m employed by the Ford family so I’m behind all the Ford drivers today.”
The Detroit Lions are owned by William Clay Ford, who is the only surviving grandson of inventor and auto pioneer Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company.