After failing to secure what had appeared to be a sure victory, Jimmie Johnson said that race winner Matt Kenseth laid back on a late restart with 21 laps to go – a restart that saw Johnson spin out in Turn 2 and lose his opportunity to take the Quaker State 400.
Kenseth used a fuel-only stop on pit road to leap ahead of Johnson, who had taken two tires on his own service. Kenseth and Johnson led the field to the green flag, but Johnson was slow to come up to speed, causing the field to stack up behind him. Then in Turn 2, the five-time Sprint Cup champion lost control of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, bringing out the yellow.
Johnson had to re-start 25th after the spin and made up 16 spots in the final 17 laps to finish ninth. Afterwards, he claimed that Kenseth had broken protocol on their restart together.
“The No. 20 [Kenseth] broke the pace car speed, which you aren’t supposed to,” said Johnson, who led 182 of 267 laps. “But they aren’t calling guys on that, so I need to start trying that in the future.”
Kenseth, of course, saw nothing wrong with what he did.
“When the pace car peeled off, I felt like I went the same pace,” Kenseth said according to Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News. “I didn’t check my [tachometer] when the pace car went off and went exactly the same pace but I think you can look at the data and see I didn’t slow down.
“So really at that point, you try to watch the guy inside of you and make sure he doesn’t lay back and try to get a run at you and try to keep him right by my door. When I got in the box, I went. From there, I don’t really know what happened.”
Restarts have become a recurring issue with Johnson ever since he was hit with a restart penalty that cost him a potential win earlier this month at Dover. Two weeks later at Michigan, he was nearly wrecked out of the race on a Lap 81 restart, when he appeared cautious of going before reaching the restart box.