Johnson 156 Points Behind Leader Jeff Burton Lowe's Motor Speedway Next In 2006 "Chase" Talladega, Ala. - For 187 and a half laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway it looked like Lowe's Chevrolet driver Jimmie Johnson would drive himself right...
Johnson 156 Points Behind Leader Jeff Burton
Lowe's Motor Speedway Next In 2006 "Chase"
Talladega, Ala. - For 187 and a half laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway it looked like Lowe's Chevrolet driver Jimmie Johnson would drive himself right back in to the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup "Chase for the Championship."
But a collision with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers as the pair battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. going down the backstretch on the final lap left Johnson with a 24th-place finish and dealt a severe blow to his bid to win this season's title.
It looked like the race would be Johnson's to win and vault him back into the "Chase." But those hopes ended abruptly.
He moved along side Earnhardt as the trio approached turn three, then Vickers tagged Johnson in the left rear quarter panel sending Johnson spinning into Earnhardt. The pair slid into the infield and possibly out of the "Chase."
"I got a run on (Earnhardt) and got inside of him and then got hit from behind," said Johnson who won here in May. "We had a chance to make up some points and got crashed by a teammate. I just got hit."
Vickers, who apologized in victory lane, earned his first career victory in 107 starts.
"It is not how I wanted to win it, but it is nice to get a win for this No. 25 car, it has been a long time," said Vickers.
Johnson is now 156 points behind leader Jeff Burton whose late race flat tire left Johnson with a chance to narrow his point deficit. If Johnson had finished on top he could have cut the deficit to about 60 points.
Until the final lap accident, Johnson appeared to have endured all his bad luck early in the race. After starting third he ran with the leaders until the first round of green flag stops. Soon after returning to the track, Johnson reported his windshield was covered in oil.
"I think I'll ride back here for a while," Johnson told the Chad Knaus led crew over the radio.
The Hendrick Motorsports crew cleaned the windshield on the next stop but Johnson still lingered near the back of the field. On the next stop the crew determined a flat tire had slowed his progress and he was slowed getting to the pits by another car blocking his pit stall.
While Johnson seemed to struggle at the back of the field the newly paved Talladega track provided typical racing on the Superspeedway. There were 63 lead changes by 23 drivers.
Once the race reached the midway point Johnson began to charge to the front leading three times for six laps and appearing as the favorite along with Earnhardt to take the checkered flag.
In the final 15 laps Johnson lined up behind Earnhardt and ahead of Vickers hoping to draft past Earnhardt on the final lap. While the finish hurt his point's position, Johnson admits he is frustrated after three weeks of possibly being the fastest car on the track.
"It is a tough blow. I am so proud of Hendrick Motorsports and this race team, it is too bad we didn't have a chance to capitalize on the points," said Johnson.
"I'm just bummed out that we can't take advantage of a day when we can really close up in points. That's the way this Chase has been for us. We've had cars worthy of a championship, but crazy things have happened at the end. I'm just really disappointed."
Johnson and his teammates return to action this weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway where Johnson probably faces his best shot at cutting the point's deficit.