Apr 7, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
Had Earnhardt not made a costly mistake, driving off the track and into a waterlogged grassy area in the infield heading into Turn 1, Johnson could very well have finished much better in the race than he actually did.
Unfortunately, a big chunk of the sod Earnhardt tore up, not to mention rubber from the tire he blew when he hit the grass and then bounced off the edge of the pavement and up into the Turn 1 wall went where it shouldn’t have.
Namely, right into Johnson’s windshield and the front end of his car. The impact was so forceful that the debris actually bent part of Johnson’s windshield and the inside support bracket.
As a result, Johnson was forced to make three separate pit stops within a few laps of each other for repairs. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, he had to make a fourth stop when he suffered a right rear tire issue several laps later.
For Johnson to go through such a miserable day and still finish 25th, two laps behind race winner Joey Logano, is commendable and notable.
“When Junior when through the grass, it kicked up all this debris and mud,” Johnson recalled after the race. “It ripped the windshield and ripped the left front.
“There was a lot of noise. And I saw his car and then I instantly lost vision. I felt a couple of hard hits on my car and I knew that we had some damage.
“But … we recovered and had a fast car and we were okay, and then I don’t know if I ran something over on the track or what, but something really big hit the bottom-side of my car and that, I think, punctured our right rear tire. We had to come to pit road after that. And then we lost a couple of laps due to that.”
Johnson actually had a car worthy of winning his second race in a row at Texas, having done so in last fall’s Chase race there.
But when the race finally went green after the field circled TMS for the first 10 laps under yellow/green caution to test the track’s viability and dryness, it took less than two laps for Earnhardt to not only spoil his day, but Johnson’s as well.
“The Lowe’s team gave me a great car today,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of surreal what happened. Junior hit the grass there and something off his car like a splitter or something just destroyed my windshield and then something hit the nose of the car too.
“We were in a good position and were running decent lap times when the right rear blew. I’m glad Junior is alright and hats off to my guys today. We played around with some strategy at the end. They never gave up.
“It was a day of bad luck. We had a fast race car, so there was a little silk lining in it, but it was a terrible finish.”
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