Jimmie Johnson started at the front of the field and led early, putting his No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet in the perfect position to capitalize for the victory. Though when all seemed right, the pieces began to unravel. Johnson would head down pit road for a round of green flag pit stops, and his crew would get flagged for “jumping over the wall too soon”, resulting in Johnson having to make a pass-through.
In the moments following the penalty, crew chief Chad Knaus was frustrated with the circumstances, stating his sentiments over the team’s radio.
“NASCAR…I would appreciate an explanation,” Knaus said. “We do not know what we did wrong. Our pit steward doesn’t know what we did wrong. We do not know and would like to know so we can appease you. NASCAR, please tell us what we did wrong.”
This marks the first race where NASCAR is using cameras to monitor pit road. The camera flags a penalty, in which one of eight officials review before calling it. There is an official on pit road for every four pit stalls that is supposed to communicate with the crew chief as to what their team did wrong, and handle any appeals. Based on Knaus’ frustration, the situation was not handled as he would see fit.
In the end, the penalty didn’t matter, though, as Johnson was able to catch a caution to catch back up with the field, before making his way through to return to the front of the field. Johnson was in position with just under 20 laps to go to pick up the victory, but in the end would finish fifth.
“With about 10 to go, I thought we were in position to win the Daytona 500,” Johnson commented. “I wish we were in Victory Lane right now but with plate racing you honestly have no clue what’s going to happen. First and foremost, our Lowe’s Chevrolet is in one piece on pit lane so that’s a positive for the day. It was a great effort from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and on the 48. Our line just did not go on the restart at the end. I looked up in the mirror at a big gap and knew we were in trouble, especially with the outside line as tight as they were to one another.”
Johnson added that he felt the win slipped away in the final two restarts as a result of his lines not getting lined up accordingly.
“So many other circumstances kind of determine who wins these races and that is what makes them such a crap shoot,” Johnson continued. “I’m just excited that we are sitting there three wide however many deep with five (laps) to go putting on a killer show. A fun day here in Daytona, of course I wish I was in Victory Lane right now, but we had a very strong day nothing to be embarrassed about.”