"It's easy to look back on it, obviously, and wish that you did something different," added Pemberton, tacitly admitting that with 20-20 hindsight the call may have been the wrong one. "But at the time, it didn't appear like there was any fluid that was coming out of the car."
But the race was finally done, and Harvick was in victory lane. It was rather ironic that Harvick should emerge the winner in a Childress car at Phoenix, given that the weekend had started with a shock ESPN report that Harvick had signed a deal to join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 after the end of his current contract with Childress at the end of next season - something neither man was willing to comment on in post-race interviews.
Kyle Busch ended up losing second spot to his team mate Denny Hamlin at the line, and Busch took the blame for not nailing the final restart attempt.
"Great day. Guys gave me an awesome car. Just gave it away at the end. Just didn't pick the right lane. It's my fault. So, it seems to be the way the year goes," he sighed. "Kevin got out a little bit on me. Denny got alongside of me. Just made me really loose trying to battle with the #11 so I couldn't even drive forward at all. We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the #29."
"The track is just so slick. We're running on such hard tires. You can't get a grip on it and it makes for exciting racing like we saw today," added Hamlin. "Everyone's just sliding around and sliding into each other. Of course, it makes for excitement on TV, but obviously it also makes for championship implications as well."
Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman came home in fourth and fifth, and then it was Brad Keselowski, with slight damage to his Dodge from one of the final lap wrecks but still safely classified in sixth place which meant that he would be 20pts ahead of Johnson going into the final race of the year at Homestead-Miami next weekend. All other drivers are now mathematically out of contention for the 2012 title.
"It's way, way out of our control," admitted Johnson of where this leaves his hopes for a sixth Cup title. "We still have to go to Homestead and race and anything can happen down there. But this is not the position we want to be in late in Phoenix ... I just hate for our day to turn out as it did today. But, that's racing and we'll go to Homestead and do all we can down there and see how things pan out.”
But Keselowski wasn't getting ahead of himself, and was all too aware that a battle that could swing so far in one direction one week could easily swing right back again at the next race.
“Nothing is over until it's over, and the same problems that Jimmie had today we could have next week at Homestead," he pointed out. "So we just need to keep our head down and focus on what lays ahead."
Full race results, Saturday practice times
and Sprint Cup Championship standings