Jimmie Johnson had everything working in his favor. Coming into Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson won the last points race in Kansas and was the defending winner at the Coca-Cola 600.
All of that momentum came to an abrupt end on Lap 275 on Sunday night.
The No. 48 car turned sideways coming out of Turn 4 and slid into pit road. Unlike a previous spin on Lap 91, Johnson was unable to save the car from smashing into a wall.
“We just had a really loose race car,” Johnson said in the garage. “We came in with an aggressive mindset and brought an aggressive setup in the car. … Unfortunately, we didn’t get long enough into the race for that aggressive setup to come into play.
“We said we’re gonna come into the race and swing for the fences. We ended up hitting the fence.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 25, 2015
Ironically enough, the wall that Johnson hit happened to be one with a SAFER barrier that was installed earlier this year. It was a reactive move after Kyle Busch’s wreck that kept him out for the start of the season in Daytona.
The move likely saved another one of NASCAR’s biggest stars at the Sprint Cup level.
“I could see the SAFER barrier and I could see the opening [to the garage],” Johnson said. “It wouldn’t have been pretty for me, but to have teams and stuff there it was something I was staring at while sliding. … I was very thankful the SAFER barrier was there, but I just wish we could find a way to extend a wall out and redirect the car away from that opening.”
Thanks to his three wins already this season, Johnson has nothing to worry about in terms of making the Chase. But in a race that he typically dominates and won last year, it’s a disappointing finish to the leader on the Chase Grid.
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