Johnson watches win slip away

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJuly 28, 2013 

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Driver Jimmie Johnson poses during portraits for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jimmie Johnson

NICK LAHAM — Getty Images

— Jimmie Johnson is still sitting pretty in his quest for a sixth Sprint Cup Series championship this season.

But the loss of another so-close-you-can-taste-it win is getting old.

Johnson once again led the most laps – 73 of 160 – but ended up second in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 when a slow pit stop and late-race pit strategy put Ryan Newman out front with 13 laps remaining.

Johnson, who took four new tires during his final pit stop while Newman changed two, cut into Newman’s margin but couldn’t get close enough to make a pass for the lead.

“We win as a team, lose as a team. There have been some late race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us – granted not a major event like this,” Johnson said.

“But we win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We’ll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders.”

When it came down to the tire strategy, Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, knew Newman would likely do the opposite of whatever Johnson did.

But Johnson wasn’t counting on a 17-second pit stop, which left him six seconds behind Newman once both returned to the track.

“We definitely had a mistake on our stop. We could have been four seconds closer leaving pit road,” Johnson said.

“When you’re the dominant car, they’re going to do the opposite of what you do. The (two tires) gave them the track position they needed. With the mistake, they had good track position.”

As Johnson said, he left Indy in decent shape. He is still the series points leader and is tied with Matt Kenseth for the most wins this season. If neither gains an advantage during the next six races, Johnson and Kenseth will begin the Chase tied.

“These things are so hard to win,” Johnson said.

“Having a race-winning car like we did, I hate to let this opportunity slip by, but it’s gone.”

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