Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson advanced his chances for a record-tying seventh title with a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he had to overcome a major issue to claim the top-10 result.
On Lap 199 of 300, Johnson’s left front tire went flat. He avoided contact with the outside wall but had to make an unscheduled pit stop to change tires. Johnson lost a lap in the process, but two quick cautions thereafter, on laps 204 and 211, helped restore him to the lead lap.
“Yeah, it was really weird,” Johnson said of the mishap. “I went into Turn 3 and got on the brakes and the car traveled and slowed down. It felt like something broke in the left-front, but they said there was a lug nut inside the wheel.
“I guess when I hit the brakes to slow down, a lug not hit the valve stem and took the tire out. Fortunately, some cautions fell in quick order to let us get back on the lead lap. We had a solid car and got up there to ninth or something and some guys ran out of fuel and got us to sixth.”
Johnson heads to Dover, where he has recorded a track-record 10 victories, fifth in the series standings and 26 points ahead of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12th, the cutoff position for the next round.
“Dover is a great track for us,” Johnson said. “A victory could be a huge shot in the arm for our team and really get some good momentum going for us. We’ll go there and give 100 percent, and hopefully it’s a trophy; if not, hopefully it’s an advancement to the next round.”