That Jimmie Johnson ran out fuel after dominating the Michigan race in June was no reason to avoid fuel strategy again when NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series returned to Michigan International Speedway in August.
The problem was that the win-or-bust mentality of Johnson's #48 team didn't work any better in Sunday's Carfax 400 than it had two months earlier, when Johnson ran out of fuel and finished 22nd after leading 146 of the 200 laps.
In Sunday's race, Johnson led 133 laps but finished even worse - 33rd - after running out of gas on lap 198. But for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, there was little downside to the gamble because Johnson, for practical purposes, is a lock to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Nevertheless, Johnson ended the race aggravated by a track at which he has never won, while Brian Vickers saved enough fuel to take the chequered flag.
“I'm certainly frustrated,” Johnson said, “We've won one race on fuel mileage - ever - and it's just not what we're good at. You really have no clue if you've saved much. I ran around half-throttle and thought 'shoot, I must have saved enough'. ”
Knaus didn't want to settle for anything less than a win.
“Here's the deal,” he explained, “When you lead all the laps, when you get to the end, you don't want to just fall back and settle for a fifth- or sixth-place finish. That's not what we wanted to do. Fortunately enough, we're in a position where, if it had worked out, we would have been great. It would have been a storybook ending for us - but unfortunately, it didn't work out.”
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service