NASCAR

Johnson, No. 48 team in Chase form

Image: NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson (© Nick Wass/AP)
Jimmie Johnson has four wins this season but none in recent weeks.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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After a terrible month of August, you have to say the No. 48 rebounded last Sunday night in Chicago. I think they did what all of us expected and that was to flip the switch when the Chase started. I think the month of August was probably the worst string of races Jimmie Johnson has had in his entire career.

To be fair, he had a good race car at Michigan but then it blew a motor which is so unusual for Hendrick powerplants. Even taking that a step further, it was in a backup car to boot as he had wrecked his primary car.

I think you also have to discount the race at Richmond. He had just welcomed his second daughter into the world. He hadn’t turned a lap in that race car until the green flag waved, so you have to assume he was mentally worn out and thinking about more than just the race.

They had a couple mistakes Sunday at Chicago but you really can’t factor them in. A jack failure is a jack failure. That’s not anybody’s fault. They responded and recovered nicely, actually. The other incident where the NASCAR official was saying they were missing a lug nut when they really weren’t.

IT ADDS UP

Where did your favorite driver finish in the 2013 final standings?

Well, crew chief Chad Knaus handled that the most professional way I have seen any crew chief handle an issue like that.

Unfortunately, the blown call by the NASCAR official cost the No. 48 dearly. They went from a three-second lead to being roughly five seconds behind. I am sure Chad Knaus was burning up inside, but he was very gracious about it. Chad says it was simply a mistake and everybody makes mistakes.

The sad part about our sport is there is no timeout to be called to review a call. You can’t stop the game and rectify it. Our game keeps going. That’s what made it hard for the No. 48 Sunday night.

That, however, is where Jimmie and Chad are at their best. They don’t dwell on what happened; they are always looking forward to what is out in front of them.

For them to come back and recover to a great fifth-place finish, despite both issues Sunday night, I think it sends a loud message throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage that the No. 48 bunch has found the “We’re ready for the Chase” switch.
 

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