Johnson salvages day after crashing at Kansas

Jimmie Johnson knew his car was damaged. He just didn’t know the

extent of it.

When he pulled into the garage after Sunday’s race at Kansas

Speedway, the five-time champion finally realized that crew chief

Chad Knaus had been lying to him all along.

The rear end had been crushed during a spin midway through the

race, and the crew of the No. 48 Chevrolet had spent half a dozen

pit stops trying to smooth out the damage. The calm, confident

voice of Knaus never gave Johnson any indication that his car was

so heavily damaged.

”There’s nothing wrong with that thing. Nothing,” Knaus told

Johnson over the radio after his fourth trip to the pits. ”You

just might have a little trouble looking out the back window.”

No problem for Johnson, a two-time winner at Kansas. He wound up

driving through the field to a ninth-place finish, his eighth

straight top-10 over the 1.5 mile tri-oval.

”I had to get a look at it here. It’s pretty tore up,” Johnson

said after the race, which was won by Matt Kenseth. ”Definitely

proud of this team and the fact that we never give up and continue

to fight and get every point that we can.”

Johnson finished one spot behind point leader Brad Keselowski,

and remains seven points back with four races left in the Chase for

the Sprint Cup championship.

”I’m very proud but I was disappointed,” Johnson said. ”We

could have been in Victory Lane.”

Johnson certainly had the car to do it, leading 44 laps early in

the race. But he had just pitted with 148 to go when Aric Almirola

got into the wall, and that shuffled Johnson back in the field. Now

with cars in front of him, Johnson saw Martin Truex Jr. bobble a

bit and hit the gas trying to get around him, and ”when I did

that, my car took off and I couldn’t catch it.”

Johnson backed into the wall in Turn 4, compressing the rear

end. It took four pit stops during the caution flag and a couple

more over subsequent cautions before enough damage was ripped off

the car, buckled down or taped over that Johnson could start racing

through the field.

”Unbelievable,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. ”I have never

in my 30 years of racing seen anyone perform that kind of surgery

and not lose a lap.”

Keselowski was just as impressed by his closest championship

competition.

”The race kept giving him opportunities to recover with all the

yellows,” Keselowski said, ”and they took advantage. They’re a

great team and that’s what great teams do.”

DANICA’S DRAMA: Danica Patrick decided to stand up for herself –

and it cost a car.

Patrick was on the lead lap early in the race when she said

Landon Cassill ”slammed into me on the front straight for no other

reason than his radio communication, `She was in the way.'”

So, Patrick decided to nudge the No. 83 car when he slid in

front of her, and both of them spun out. Cassill managed to save

his car while Patrick slammed hard into the wall.

”I’ve always played fair,” Patrick said in the garage area.

”If it’s one time, I can imagine it’s frustration, but it’s been

pretty consistent with him getting into me. At some point in time,

I have to stand up for myself, or everybody is going to do

it.”

Patrick officially finished 32nd, and has yet to record a top-20

result in eight Sprint Cup races. She’s running an abbreviated

10-race schedule to prepare for a full-time ride next season with

Stewart-Haas Racing, and is still scheduled to run at Texas and

Phoenix this year.

Of course, the car she wrecked is the same one she was planning

to run at Texas.

Cassill ended up finishing 18th, and offered his unvarnished

opinion of Patrick over the radio: ”Rule No. 1 in stock car racing

is learn how to wreck someone without wrecking yourself.”

STILL ROWDY: Evidently, Kyle Busch hasn’t learned his lesson

when it comes to retaliation.

Busch, who was fined and suspended last season for intentionally

wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a truck race, warned Ryan Newman to

watch his back after the two got together Sunday.

Busch had been fighting for grip all afternoon when Newman

closed in on him. Busch went low to protect the bottom, and Newman

ran up the back of him, getting both cars a little bit loose.

”Then he ran into the back of me and spun me out,” Busch said.

”There’s still 80-something laps to go. I don’t know what that was

for or why or whatever, but I’m glad he’s wrecked along with me,

and he’ll get another one here before the year is out.”

Busch was fined $50,000 and parked by NASCAR for his incident

involving Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway. He ended up having to

miss the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races that weekend, and spent

the remainder of the season on probation.

After winning 18 times over NASCAR’s top three series last

season, things haven’t gone nearly as smooth for Busch for this

year. His only victory came in the Cup race at Richmond in

April.

Then there’s the fact that Kansas has been especially bad for

him. His average finish in 11 races is 21st, and twice he’s been in

title contention when he’s been wrecked.

”It’s impatience,” he said. ”You’ve got to be patient enough

to know there’s 80 laps to go.”