Pit stop mistake costs Johnson a chance for win
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — When Jimmie Johnson left his pit stall with his gas can — and his gas man — still attached to his No. 48 Chevrolet it cost the five-time Sprint Cup champion a chance to win the Coca-Cola 600.
Johnson was given a stop-and-go penalty dropping him a lap behind and out of contention.
Johnson pulled down pit lane to get two tires and some gas with 46 laps to go, but as he left the stall the gas can was still attached. As he began to accelerate Brandon Harder couldn't pull the gas can out of the car and went tumbling forward into the next pit stall where the gas can finally detached.
Johnson stopped and then restarted — but the damage was done.
"I knew what I had to dump in there for us to make it to the end because we were right on the border," said Harder, who wasn't injured. "(Johnson) went and stopped again and then went again. I went for a little ride with Jimmie."
Johnson had been on a roll, winning the Southern 500 and the Sprint Cup All-Star race.
He's not sure how the problem occurred.
"I couldn't tell you," Johnson said. "We had a couple of mistakes and the last one cost us. The last couple of weeks it couldn't have gone any better. Some weeks it goes your away and some weeks it doesn't."
Harder said it was tough pill to swallow for the entire pit crew.
"Yeah, we all take it personal," Harder said. "We're our own worst critics and it's something you don't want to have happen. But it did."
The mistake is a little ironic considering it was Johnson's No. 48 pit crew team that won the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge 10 days before in Charlotte.
"Pro sports, man," Johnson said. "Nobody said it was easy."
WHEEL WOES: Marcos Ambrose started the race on the front row, but a broken left wheel hub cost him a shot at giving owner Richard Petty a victory in NASCAR's longest race Sunday.
Ambrose, who qualified second for the 400-lap race and started alongside teammate Aric Almirola, was forced to exit the race on lap 217 and immediately took the car behind the wall to be repaired.
"It's been the story of our year," said Ambrose, who came in ranked 18th in the Spring Cup standings. "We put ourselves in great position (to win), but it's a shame. We'll look to get them next week."
Just a few laps earlier, A.J. Allmendinger left the track after a similar issue costing him 36 laps.
WALLACE WANTS SHORTER SEASON: Rusty Wallace, recently selected to the NASCAR Hall of Famer, loves plenty of things about the sport. Except maybe the increased schedule.
"It's the classic case of supply and demand," Wallace said Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "Too much supply and not enough demand."
Wallace won 55 Sprint Cup races in a career that stretched from 1980 to 2005. He thought the series was at its best in the mid-1990s when NASCAR ran 31 or 32 races.
This year, drivers will race in 36 events as they've done since 2001.
"Personally, I wish the schedule were 32 again," Wallace said.
Wallace still believes in NASCAR's popularity. However, he hopes the sports leaders don't water down the product with too many races.
"I love NASCAR. It's been good to me, it's made me a lot of money," Wallace said. "I think it's OK for me to give my opinion. I don't think NASCAR would get upset about that. Maybe take four races off the schedule and increase that demand that means so much."
Wallace, an ESPN broadcaster, was selected for the 2013 Hall of Fame class Wednesday along with four pioneers of the sport in Leonard Wood, Herb Thomas, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker. The group will be inducted in February.
Wallace likes the safety improvements and what NASCAR's doing to keep cars racing side-by-side. Wallace saw plenty of that in Saturday's Nationwide Series won by Brad Keselowski.
"It's going to be slick. These cars are going to be slipping and sliding that should make for a good race," Wallace said.
MONTOYA BEATS FRANCHITTI: Dario Franchitti didn't win everything Sunday.
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