Jimmie Johnson began Sunday afternoon’s race on the front row in the outside pole. But he got a bit of a head start once the green flag dropped.
Johnson beat the first-place car to the line, and NASCAR ruled it a start violation.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been on the front that I just got it wrong,” Johnson joked. “I went off the flag and forgot that the pole sitter has to be the first one to the stripe; so I’ll take the responsibility on that one.”
It resulted in a pass-through penalty, but the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS bounced back to finish Stage 1 in 12th.
“It didn’t help us,” Johnson said of the penalty, “but we certainly got track position back and then unfortunately faded a little bit on the longer runs.”
He praised the car’s short-run speed and noted that after finishing outside of the top 10 in the past three races, taking the checkered flag in 10th was a welcomed sight.
“We got a top-10 and we’ll take that,” he said. “We’ve had a couple not-so-good lately, so it’s nice to get a respectful finish.”
NO. 88 TEAM’S GAMBLE
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team knew they were going to need to try something out of the ordinary to jump to the front of the pack Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“We were 13th and 18th in practice,” Earnhardt explained. “Didn’t have good speed all weekend. The best we were going to run was 10th, probably.”
So late in the race, the team waited as competitors made green-flag pit stops to spring Earnhardt to the lead before the driver headed to pit road himself. Then, during the final caution of the race, Earnhardt remained on the track to take the lead for the ensuing restart – albeit on older tires.
“We were hoping the No. 2 and a couple of other guys that were kind of on the same strategy would stay out behind us,” the driver said. “But I knew when nobody stayed out that as fast as that front four or five were it was impossible to hold them off.”
Ultimately, Earnhardt crossed the finish line 18th. While the strategy didn’t earn him a win, he was excited about the decision to try it.
“That is kind of risk we’ve got to take,” he said.