Johnson conquers engine problems

Once 3 laps down, he finishes 13th

Staff writerAugust 4, 2009 

— The finishing position hardly told the story of Jimmie Johnson's day.

Johnson, who had the fastest car in both Saturday practice sessions at Pocono Raceway, began experiencing an engine problem just past halfway of Monday's rain-delayed Pennsylvania 500.

He was forced to make several unscheduled pit stops while his team and crew chief Chad Knaus worked to diagnose the problem.

In the process, Johnson fell three laps down from the leader.

Late in the race and running out of ideas, Johnson's team began changing the spark plugs in his No. 48 Chevrolet, and suddenly the car he drove Saturday returned to life.

With the help of a fast car and five cautions in the final 50 laps, he salvaged a 13th-place finish and remain second in the series standings, 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart.

"When it came to changing the spark plugs, I knew we were about out of stuff to try. We lost a lap trying to get the plugs changed because it's a time-consuming process and we could only get to a few of them," Johnson said. "I was hoping the problem was in one of the few we were able to reach.

"Luckily it was, and then the car started running."

RCR turnaround: Richard Childress Racing has had its share of trouble this season, and none of its four Cup drivers is in the top 12 in points.

Clint Bowyer's run Monday -- in which he led 23 laps and finished third -- should help continue the rebuilding.

Teammate Kevin Harvick, finished 12th and was sixth last weekend at Indianapolis.

"It feels good to have something swing your way a little bit," Bowyer said. "We're not out of this thing. We've got to keep plugging away. There's still a lot of racing left."

Bowyer stayed out during a caution and took the lead on Lap 168. He remained out front until Denny Hamlin finally made his way around him with 10 laps left.

"We gambled on fuel mileage. I didn't think I'd lead that much," Bowyer said. "Once the cautions fell there, it gave me enough room to get out [front] and get away from those guys with [new] tires."

Hornish's best finish: Sam Hornish Jr. enjoyed perhaps his most competitive run of the season Monday.

At one point, he was running second behind then-leader Clint Bowyer with 12 laps remaining. He ended up fourth, his best performance in his short Cup career.

Hornish is in his second season with Penske Racing. All five of his top-10 finishes have come this season.

Waltrip tabs Carpentier: Michael Waltrip will give up his seat in the No. 55 Toyota again to allow Patrick Carpentier to drive the car in Sunday's Cup race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Carpentier drove for Waltrip on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., in June and finished 11th.

White House reschedules: The visit by reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and other NASCAR drivers to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama has been rescheduled for Aug. 19, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Johnson will be joined on the visit by most of the drivers who made last season's Chase field as well as several former series champions.

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