When Jimmie Johnson got loose and took out several cars at the end of Sunday’s Pocono NASCAR race, it seemed the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion simply made a rare mistake that threw away his chance at a victory.
But Johnson, who had by far the best car on the day, said after the race there was a reason for what happened.
“When I was cooling my tires down through the tunnel coming to the green, I noticed that something didn’t feel right,” said Johnson, who was leading at the time. “I kept trying to clean the tires off and it got a little better so I just assumed I had trash on my tires. But when I got down into Turn 1, I realized that I had a right-rear (tire) flat.”
From the video, it’s very tough to tell conclusively whether Johnson indeed had a flat tire. But whatever the result, it took out second-place Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, among others.
“Unfortunate that we lost the lead there and we got a couple of cars in the process,” Johnson said. “I shouldn’t feel bad about that, but not much you can do with a right-rear flat.”
Kenseth, though, saw the incident differently. He said Johnson drove “really, really far” into the corner and got loose underneath the No. 17 car, which is how the crash started.
“He just drove in incredibly far and spun out,” Kenseth said. “Maybe he had a flat, but I am not so sure about that.”
Kenseth said he wasn’t mad, but was disappointed about the crash after he raced hard for his position all day. Kenseth left Johnson enough room to race down low, he said, and was upset the incident took place.
“We are in a situation where we need to win some races, too,” Kenseth said. “You don’t mind if something happens, it is just a bummer when it takes you out after you are running top three all day and finish 22nd or wherever we are. That is very disappointing and it is hard to look at the bright spot in that.”
So what really happened? Though the circumstances were questionable, we’re going to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt on this one. Here’s why: Johnson always seems to man up and take the blame when he believes he made a mistake. On Saturday, for example, he tweeted this after he messed up a corner during qualifying:
Rule #1, don’t over drive corner entry. To bad I forgot about that rule on my into the tunnel turn.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 4, 2012
Clearly, Johnson doesn’t have a problem taking responsibility for a screwup. So when he says he had a flat tire, that probably is close to the real story.
As he tweeted after the race:
Some of you can dream up what ever you want, I had a flat RR tire.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 5, 2012
Here’s a look at the crash: