Jimmie Johnson has been one of the stronger cars so far during today’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, which is currently under a red flag for rain at Lap 110. However, he hit a bit of a snag earlier on during a green flag stop, his second of the day, at Lap 75.
An already slow stop was made even slower after an official reported that a lug nut was loose on Johnson’s right-rear tire. That led to some frantic moments among the 48 crew before Johnson was able to get on his way.
Johnson fell from the lead to fifth, and had moved up to fourth behind race leader Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano when rain forced the yellow at Lap 107. Three laps later, the red was brought out.
ESPN caught up with Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus (pictured, right, with Johnson), who explained the incident on pit road.
“There was one hanging there,” Knaus said. “One had fallen off during the hand-in so it was kind of hanging there. But the tire changer had taken the time – he did his job, did a great job – of getting the other lug nut on there and making sure it was tight. The official thought there were only four on there.
“We all make mistakes. That happens from time to time. Hopefully, we can get the Lowe’s Chevrolet back towards the front and get up there and compete for the win.”
Johnson tried to keep his cool during the long stop, but also admitted to ESPN that he “could see confusion.”
“I saw an official waving, I saw my rear tire changer done and at the wall arguing with Chad, telling him that the lugs were on,” he said. “In the end, I guess the official thought all the lugs weren’t on the right rear and that was where there was a conversation and an argument.
“Chad didn’t want me to leave the box without the lugs on and get a penalty, and on and on it went. Long story short, I sat there on pit road while the clock was ticking…[We] certainly lost track position, but I think we’ve got the car to get back up there. We just need to get this place to dry out, get my Lowe’s Chevy back on the road, and we’ll be in good shape.”
First thing’s first, though, and, to borrow Johnson’s line, that’s getting the place to dry out. We’ll see how long it takes.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.