Jimmie Johnson was looking forward to taking the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy home to a top ten finish in Vegas and extending his Winston Cup championship points lead. However, Sterling Marlin had other ideas. As Johnson and Marlin entered turn 4, the...
Jimmie Johnson was looking forward to taking the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy home to a top ten finish in Vegas and extending his Winston Cup championship points lead.
However, Sterling Marlin had other ideas. As Johnson and Marlin entered turn 4, the two got together inducing a sideways slide of the No. 48 into the infield grass.
After the race Johnson voiced his discord over the skirmish. "The last lap incident with the No. 40 is frustrating. I would like to think that it was not intentional. I raced clean all afternoon and didn't have a tire mark on my car and I didn't put one on anyone else. To have that happen on the last lap is hard to take."
"Right now we're mad and frustrated," Johnson continues. "But we have to keep the big picture in our minds and we're leaving Las Vegas in better position than we came in. We'll just get ready for Atlanta and look forward to a strong run on one of our better tracks."
The spin ended Johnson's record of top ten finishes in the previous two races, and cost him the championship point lead to Michael Waltrip. Johnson now sits in third, fourteen points behind the leader. Johnson is, however, the one of only two drivers on the circuit to post a top fifteen finish in all three of the series first events.
The cause for Johnson's ennui, Sterling Marlin, managed to keep his car straight as Johnson headed towards the grass and brought the No. 40 Ganassi Dodge home eighth. Johnson finished eleventh.
Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knauss came over the radio immediately in an effort to calm Johnson. Apparently, it did not work, as Johnson barreled down the track presumably in an attempt to catch Marlin, he was unsuccessful and have to resort to pulling his car onto pit road first and then storming off to the garage area.
Johnson insists, however, that he was not rushing off to try and confront Marlin.
"No, no. I didn't even know where he was. I was just trying to hurry back to my truck so I could get out and tell my guys, 'Good job'. Sorry you guys misunderstood that (laughs)."
Marlin, perhaps realizing he was no match for the youthful 27-year old El Cajon, California native, quickly made himself scarce, perhaps unnecessarily. While Johnson was obviously upset about the last minute wreck, he now has perspective on the incident, and bears Marlin no ill will.
"I raced with Sterling all last year and never had any contact with him. I can't believe that it was intentional. We were racing hard on the last lap and I guess he just drove in real hard - I know I did - and moved up the track and had some contact there."
"It was just a racing thing. And to be honest with you, I haven't even seen Sterling. I spoke to his crew chief and his spotter, but I never even saw him (afterward).
"It was just a racing thing. At the time we were upset but we reviewed the tape and talked to his guys. I raced with Sterling all last year and never had any contact with him. So it's not like I think he was doing something intentional. I was just upset at the time. We lost a few more spots and spun out and almost crashed. But you know, that was that and it's over."
This weekend Johnson looks to put the events that happened in Las Vegas behind him and concentrate on another stellar run in Atlanta, furthering his championship dreams for this season. It is Johnson's third career Winston Cup start at Atlanta. He finished third in this event last year, and twenty-second in the fall race.