Oct 13, 2013, 12:22 AM EDT
What seemed to be a sure win for Jimmie Johnson tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway instead went to Brad Keselowski. And what seemed to be the perfect situation for Johnson to overtake Matt Kenseth (pictured) for the lead in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup instead ended with Kenseth still atop the standings with five races left.
Kenseth and Johnson ultimately finished third and fourth in the Bank of America 500. That effectively constitutes a draw, as Kenseth was only able to extend his lead in the Chase by one point to a margin of four as the scene shifts to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.
But Kenseth will surely take it, especially as it appeared that Johnson would be the new Chase leader coming out of North Carolina this evening. He’d been crushing the competition in the middle stages of the race, but a debris caution with 27 laps left changed everything.
As the yellow waved, Johnson led the race leaders to the pits for their final stops of the night but dropped back to third when he took four tires, while Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne took two and grabbed first and second positions respectively.
Then, instead of capitalizing on his four fresh Goodyears, Johnson fell all the way back to seventh after a poor restart. He would regain three of those lost positions back, but an opportunity to seize control of the championship had vanished.
Still, Johnson – as usual – tried to keep on an even keel about the situation.
“I wish we’d finished better, but it was still a strong performance for the Lowe’s car,” Johnson said to ESPN. “I’m very proud of the effort – we had a fast car, great qualifying, great pit stops. Everything’s there. We’ll just keep doing our jobs and work at it week after week, and see what we can get.”
But with Charlotte in the rear view mirror, the biggest wild card in the post-season now beckons. Nothing more and nothing less than a 200 mile-per-hour game of Russian Roulette, Talladega and its dreaded “Big One” can wipe out championship dreams in an instant.
For his part, Kenseth emphasized both Dega’s unpredictable nature and the fact that he still has the Chase lead when asked about what awaits him and the rest of the Chasers in Alabama.
“Jimmie’s certainly been strong in the [restrictor] plate races and Harvick’s always been good there, but you never really know what’s going to happen at Talladega,” he said.
“But I’m glad we’re still in the lead. We have a lot of racing to do, we made it through the first half of [the Chase] and have maintained a very small lead, so it’s better than being behind. We’ll go to Talladega, race hard, hope our car has some speed in it, and be able to hang up front.”
Apr 15, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
If Sprint Cup drivers’ comments during today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas Speedway are an indication, we can expect to see track records fall next month on the 1.5-mile oval.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Kyle Petty breaks down critical pit strategies in recent races, and Nate Ryan reports on today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Rookie rival Kyle Larson has been more flashy, but Dillon’s consistency has paid off in the season’s first eight races.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
On tap: The decision of four tires or two; Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson; today’s tire test at Kansas; and the Darlington edition of “Scan All 43.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
Mosley’s advice to current FIA president Jean Todt? “Take no notice.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
The first race of last month’s season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was rained out.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
The Force India driver will look to continue his momentum this weekend in China.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT
The test will help determine the aerodynamic options available to teams for this June’s IndyCar event on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Video highlights from the first Chinese Grand Prix, already 10 years ago.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT
Like father, like daughter? Ella Sofia Gordon got her first taste of a quarter-midget car earlier this week.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Some of IndyCar’s top performers, stats of notes and points after two races.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Indy Lights rookie Lloyd Read has either been really unlucky with circumstances or really lucky to avoid worse circumstances in the first two races, depending on your interpretation.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Where the NASCAR points standings sit after eight races, now post-Darlington.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Expert insight from NBCSN’s IndyCar ace analyst Townsend Bell returns for a second season on MotorSportsTalk.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT
No overturning of Red Bull’s appeal at Melbourne.
Apr 14, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
See what changed between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon for three of IndyCar’s best – a street race at Long Beach where the gloves came off.
Apr 14, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT
Sabine Kehm also talks about the Schumacher family having to deal with “untruths” in media reports about the seven-time F1 champion’s health.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss the Darlington efforts from Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson – as well as Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer’s late incident.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The open-wheel veteran will drive a third car for the defending ’500′ champions.
Apr 14, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Teams that don’t make the field on the first day of qualifying due to hardship can attempt to make the final row of the grid on the second day.
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