'It's bittersweet for me,' Ambrose says.
Joey Logano sat on pit road in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford for what seemed an eternity, as his crewman tried in vain to get a jack under the left side of the car.
After a superb run in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a performance in which he had two victories and accumulated more points than any other title competitor through nine Chase races, Logano's hopes for a title disappeared with the catastrophic mistake on pit road.
On Lap 249 of 267 in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship 4 Round race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano brought his car to pit road for the money stop. After routine work on the right side of the No. 22 Ford, the car slipped off the jack as the team prepared to change tires on the left side.
Logano’s crew frantically tried to lift the car high enough to slide the jack under the left side but lost precious seconds in the process. When the stop was finally completed, Logano was 29th in the running order, with his hope of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship all but gone.
Logano described his emotions as he sat in the car—and waited.
“I was pretty pissed off, if that is an emotion,” Logano said.
Logano advanced to 16th place by the end of the race, but with Kevin Harvick winning the race and the series title, and with Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin finishing second and seventh, respectively, Logano was credited with fourth in the final Sprint Cup standings.
“I didn’t say it was over,” Logano said of his attitude after the disastrous pit stop. “We didn’t give up. At that point, I was trying to pass as many cars as we could and really hoped those guys (the other three championship contenders) wrecked each other. That’s all I had going for me at that point.
“When you’re that far back, 24th or 25th, you can’t make that up with 12 (laps) to go, or whatever it was. It’s just too hard to make that up. All you can do is try. It was an amazing opportunity to be here, and it would be dumb to give up. You keep trying, and hopefully something happens. We put ourselves in that boat to have to be able to pull that out. It was too hard.”
Much ado about a wheel spacer
NASCAR summoned Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, to the sanctioning body’s transporter after the race to discuss what NASCAR termed a “failure to obey a NASCAR directive” during Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But after the race, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton said the issue was a small matter and had been put to rest.
With Johnson having driven a stint with a loose wheel, Knaus told his crew to put a spacer on the wheel in question, without first asking a NASCAR official for permission. Over the official’s objections, the No. 48 crew put the spacer on the wheel, earning the summons to the hauler.
“We just had a discussion on pit road between our official and Chad, and really it was just to discuss it, what they tried to do, and that's it, really,” Pemberton said. “It was really not a big deal. We were just trying to clarify what went on, that's all.”
Pemberton said no penalties would be forthcoming.
“No, it's so far under that it's ridiculous,” Pemberton said. “We're good.”
News that Knaus had been called to the hauler spread quickly on social media, but Johnson had a brisk reply for those questioning Knaus’ motives.
“FYI: CK put a wheel spacer on because of a loose wheel,” Johnson posted on his Twitter account. “That destroys the threads on the studs & won't let the wheel tighten up #ChillHaters."
Man at work
Marcos Ambrose raced his last race as a full-time NASCAR driver on Sunday at Homestead, and his night went the way most of the rest of his 2014 season had—with difficulty.
One of the top road course racers ever to drive a stock car, Ambrose fought an ill-handling No. 9 Ford and overcame contact with the wall to finish 27th, on the lead lap.
Ambrose will return to his native Australia, where he’ll drive a V8 Supercar for a team fielded by Roger Penkse.
“It’s been the story of our year, just fighting and gouging and trying all the way to the very end,” Ambrose said after the race. “I finished all the laps here tonight and finished 23rd in points, so we’ll take it. It wore me out.
“I’m just tired, to be honest with you. I’m feeling the effects of a hot night here in Miami. The car was handling rough and I was fighting it, but that’s what makes NASCAR so great. I’m going to miss it, no doubt about it. It’s bittersweet for me, but I’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for.”
NASCAR Wire Service, Reid Spencer