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Jimmie Johnson started third on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Spring Is Calling Chevrolet SS reported a tight-handling condition early on in the event to crew chief Chad Knaus. The No. 48 team made adjustments and gave the car four tires and fuel during the Lap 19 caution period. Johnson inched his way forward after the restart and battled for the lead by Lap 34. “Nice and smooth,” Knaus encouraged Johnson, who held the second position when the caution flag was waved on Lap 43 for teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had a tire issue.
During the caution period, Johnson stopped for four tires, minor adjustments and fuel before winning the race off pit road. Johnson led the field to the green flag and paced the field from Lap 48 for 25 laps throughout two more caution periods. Johnson remained inside the top 5 as the race unfolded, leading 62 laps by the Lap 150 mark. He frequently found himself battling teammate Gordon for the lead and edged past Gordon for the lead off pit road with 30 laps to go. With 28 laps left, Johnson lined up next to Gordon and used a strong restart to take the lead.
Johnson appeared poised for his sixth ACS victory until he sustained a flat left-front tire with seven laps to go. Johnson, who led a race-high 104 laps, made a pit stop for fresh tires and returned to finish 24th. The team was clearly disappointed because when the tire incident happened they were only 14 miles from their first win of the 2014 season.
“Yeah, we did an awesome job as a race team. We did everything we could to win the race today, unfortunately something out of our control let us down. I had that feeling I thought we were going to win here at my home track once again and just a bummer it didn’t work out. Spring is Calling, this No. 48 is fast and we will come back next week to a very strong race track for this Lowe’s Chevrolet and hopefully get the job done there.”
RACE WINNER: Kyle Busch
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FINISHES: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (12th), Jeff Gordon (13th), Kasey Kahne (41st)
NEXT WEEK: Martinsville Speedway, Sunday, March 30th - 1 pm ET on FOX/MRN Radio