May 10th, 2010
DARLINGTON, S.C. — During his four championship seasons, Jimmie Johnson failed to finish just seven events; the 2008 and 2009 titles came with just one DNF each. But in 11 races in 2010, Johnson has three DNFs, and his 36th-place finish in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Showtime Southern 500 was his second in the last three races.
Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led team had rebounded from a three-car incident on lap 85 to secure the free pass under the next caution on lap 172. That sense of achievement was short lived, though, when Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet collided with the No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford of A.J. Allmendinger, and then into slammed the turn-three wall hard on lap 181 just as caution waved for a struggling Kevin Conway along the backstretch.
Neither driver was injured in the violent crash, but Johnson was more than a little confused by what had transpired.
“All I know is last minute I saw a green bumper and it was a hard hit. Unfortunately, we had all kinds of issues tonight. Got caught up in all kinds of little small things, but still had a very fast race car and I think we could have salvaged a top-10, top-five finish today.
It is too bad,” Johnson said. “I’m going back to watch the video because I have no clue. I guess it was A.J. because he came and apologized to me and said his brakes failed or something. I don’t know if he was behind me or where he was, but he came in there hot and hit me hard.
“The brake rotor exploded,” Allmendinger explained. “The last 40 or 50 laps we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes. We took all the brake cooling off and thought maybe we were gonna fix it, and when that yellow came out I went to hit the brakes to slow down and the brake rotors exploded. I’m not sure which one, but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody.
“I’m sorry for Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”
- Add Stewart-Haas Racing to the list of teams searching for sponsorship in 2011. Old Spice confirmed Sunday it will not renew its sponsorship of Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet after this season.
“Based solely on a change in our marketing strategies, the Old Spice contract with Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing will expire at the end of 2010 and will not be renewed,” Mike Norton, Old Spice Brand spokesman, said in a statement. “Old Spice has enjoyed an 11-year relationship with Tony and supported him as he became a very successful team owner in NASCAR. We wish Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing continued success in the future.”
Office Depot will remain the team’s co-primary sponsor in 2011.
- Richard Childress says he is close to a contract to keep Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing, but Harvick declined to address the issue on Friday. Harvick’s No. 29 team lost Shell as its sponsor for next season, but it’s strong performance so far this year — including a sixth-place finish Saturday night — should help in landing a new backer.
- Kurt Busch thinks his brother Kyle’s maturation is more simple than the “good Kyle-bad Kyle” explanation that the younger Busch has been using with the media.
“You just can’t write that was, ‘Hey, a good Kyle Busch or bad Kyle Busch’ when things happen,” the elder Busch explained. “The things that you get to write are that he’s going through life changes and he’s maturing. He’s not 22 years old anymore. (It was) the same situation with me. I was 21 and ran into everything when I was out here. Now, I’m 31 and I don’t run into as many things, but I still run into stuff.”
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is one of the many drivers who struggles at Darlington Raceway. Earnhardt crashed his primary car Friday and then brushed the wall with his backup.
“This place will probably be the catalyst to my retirement one day,” Earnhardt said. “I will probably come here when I am 45, run a race and say the hell with it. It’s miserable hot here during Friday. It is a difficult track to drive around. Not one of my favorites, but I’ve run all right here before, we just have to figure out how to get the car where we like it and get some luck.”
- During a Saturday afternoon “Tweetup,” Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers and ESPN’s Marty Smith raised more than $800 for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for victims of flash flooding in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this month.
- J.J. Yeley made his debut in the Whitney Motorsports No. 46 and qualified 30th. It was only the fourth time in 11 races the car has qualified this season. Yeley replaced Terry Cook, who left the team earlier in the week.
- Crashing was the name of the game during Friday’s two Sprint Cup practice sessions. While frontrunners Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch were among those to have trouble, significant accidents for Casey Mears in the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36 Chevrolet and for owner-operator Joe Nemechek led to both failing to make the race with backup cars.
-Mike Kerchner contributed to this report.