With six laps left in Sunday's Shelby 427, three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was running in the top ten and all but certain to improve his 19th-place position in the Cup standings, but the rosy outlook evaporated in turn two, where Johnson spun and backed into the outside wall.
The Lowe's/Kobalt Chevy driver had paced the early part of the race, and led an event-high 92 tours of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but was eventually classified a lowly 24th - a result that kept him 19th on the season. He was phlegmatic about the mistake that cost him a shot at closing the gap on new points leader - and Hendrick team-mate - Jeff Gordon.
“I got down into turn one on the outside of the #26, and maybe it was just a little too high, but I got into the dirty stuff and just lost it,” Johnson said, “We had the best car, so it was just unfortunate that I just got a little too aggressive and piled it up.”
The 33-year old was less complimentary about some of the happenings during the race, which featured a record high of 13 cautions.
“I think that there were some bad calls that ended up hurting us today," he claimed, "We selected our pit stall on the other side of the start/finish line so that, if the caution came out, we wouldn't be held on the lead lap. I think NASCAR missed that call, but I've got to go back and look at the tapes and see exactly how that works out. But we picked that stall for a reason in that respect.
"And then they should have thrown the red well before [my incident] and let these laps wind down at the end of the race today, in my opinion. All that wrapped up into my frustration in trying to get to the front.”
The #48 driver didn't have the best of afternoons on pit road, overshooting his own stall on one occasion and being hampered at another stop as Bobby Labonte exited at the same time.
“I thought the #96 was doing four tyres because they had finished the rights and they were going around," Johnson reflected, "Evidently, they were doing two and I just didn't anticipate it.
"On the stop before, when I slid through, [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] and the spotter were talking on the radio at the same time - I guess there was some traffic that was getting ready to leave the pits - and I couldn't hear or understand where I was supposed to go. And the glare was pretty bad. By the time I saw my pit stall, it was just too late and I slid through it a little bit.”
Johnson now sits 145 points behind team-mate Gordon, who capitalized on erstwhile point leader Kenseth's misfortune to grab top spot overall with a sixth-place run in Vegas.by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service