Jimmie Johnson was 11 green-flag laps away from winning for the second time at Sonoma Raceway, but a late caution foiled the efforts of the No. 48 team.
When the left rear wheel assembly separated from Casey Mears’ Chevrolet and caromed across the infield into a chain-link fence, the resulting yellow put Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus in an impossible situation.
Johnson had no choice but to stay on the track on old tires while those pursuing him came to the pits for new rubber. Though four other cars stayed out with Johnson, the buffer between the six-time champion and the cars on new tires proved short-lived and ineffective.
Two laps after the restart, Kyle Busch passed Johnson, who fell to sixth at the finish.
“I saw there were a bunch of cars between myself and the first guy on (new) tires,” Johnson said of his assessment before the restart. “I felt pretty good about things. And then after about a lap and a half, I wasn’t feeling so good about things; they were there quickly.
“But if we came back tomorrow, we’d still run the same strategy. We played it perfectly. We were one caution away from it working out just right. So this situation we’re in with the wins (four so far this year) and being locked in the Chase, we wanted to come out and be aggressive with our strategy.”