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.