He fell from first to ninth during a stop when he slid too deep into his stall and got caught in a jam of cars on pit road after his team had to push him backward. On the next stop, after working his way back to fourth, Keselowski opted for only left-side tires on his No. 2 Dodge when everybody else took four tires.
After restarting the final 20 laps in first again, the strategy almost worked. Until the last restart.
“Those guys got side by side and they were running hard. It seemed like Brad was moving up the racetrack to force Jimmie into the dirty racetrack. … He’s no dummy. He’s smart,” Busch said. “Last restart though, Jimmie got an excellent restart.”
There were nine cautions for 49 laps, including that late flurry that changed the race. It sure didn’t start that way, before some yellow flags in bunches.
After the April race at Texas ended with a track-record 234 consecutive green-flag laps, the first 100 laps Sunday were without a caution. Those 334 laps were the equivalent of 501 miles, or a full Sprint Cup race at Texas.
Before all the cautions, Johnson set the pace and quickly was back in front of the field after the first two green-flag stops. Then there were three cautions in a 20-lap span.
Tony Stewart finished fifth, followed by Clint Bowyer, who is 36 points back in third in the series standings.
“It’s a small amount of control, but we’re definitely in control. We don’t have to catch any or make up any points,” Johnson said. “Seven points is nothing to feel comfortable about and to relax on. We’re still going to go into Phoenix and act as if we’re behind and go in there to try to sit on the pole and win the race again.”
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