Want to know even more about Jimmie Johnson and Team 48? See what journalists from around the country are saying about Team Lowe's Racing.
Jimmie Johnson brought the field to green in the Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta after earning his first pole since September 2010 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. But Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s “Dover White” Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, got loose on the final restart of the 267-lap race, losing positions and finishing sixth.
Still, Johnson led five times for 21 laps around the 1.5-mile oval and earned his sixth top-10 finish in seven races, narrowly missing his sixth top-five finish in as many races.
Johnson drove in the top three for a majority of the race. He and crew chief Chad Knaus talked throughout the race, working to make minor tweaks to the No. 48 car. Once again, their hard work paid off. After leading lap 97 during pit cycles, Johnson pitted for some minor chassis adjustments. He radioed soon after that the car’s balance was much better.
The duo continued to work on the Lowe’s Chevy and after a stop on lap 129, during which Johnson took right-side tires, he began a challenging run to the second spot. He spent the ensuing laps trying to chase leader Denny Hamlin but wasn’t able to get by until lap 188. He held on for 16 laps before pitting on lap 204 again for right-side tires.
Johnson regained the lead on lap 210 as a caution came out. He entered the pits for gas only while a few competitors tried to stretch their fuel. Johnson restarted fifth, but as the field took the green, his Chevrolet got loose. He finally settled into the 11th spot and spent the remaining laps trying to work his way through the field.
“I really think that on that restart I got in some oil or the track was still slick from that stay dry being down,” said Johnson, who has two top-10 finishes in two starts at Kentucky. “I got loose a couple of times, lost a bunch of track position. Then from there, I really think it was just a track position deal. I think that they have taken a lot of downforce out of the cars with the new rules. You just get to a spot and stall out. It is the first race with the new package, but certainly up front in clean air, that thing was blistering fast. I got back in traffic and just couldn’t go anywhere.”
Brad Keselowski won the Quaker State 400 to score his seventh career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kentucky.
Kasey Kahne finished 4.399 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five. Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 24 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish.
With round 17 of 36 complete, Earnhardt continues to lead the Hendrick Motorsports contingent in the championship point standings. He is in second place with 622 points, 11 back of series leader Kenseth. Johnson moved up a spot to third place with 610 points, 23 out of first. Kahne is 14th with 463 points, 170 out of first, followed by Gordon in 18th place with 453 points, 180 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the 400-mile event Saturday, July 7 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.