Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson denied any wrongdoing in the Chase field-deciding race at Richmond International Raceway over the weekend that has been marred by controversy.
Johnson defended himself the day after fellow driver Clint Bowyer said his spinout at Richmond was no different than when a Johnson mishap brought out a caution earlier in the race.
“Clint brought it up from what I’ve been able to see and read,” Johnson said Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I think he was just having a bad day. And as things kept piling on, he just tried to suck someone else into the mix with him.”
Bowyer’s spin ended Ryan Newman’s bid to win the race and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field and instead helped Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. land a berth. NASCAR, however, determined that MWR manipulated the race and replaced Truex with Newman in addition to punishing MWR.
The implication by Bowyer was that Johnson spun intentionally with 55 laps remaining to assist the Chase chances of Jeff Gordon, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.
Johnson blamed a flat tire for his caution and pointed out correctly that Gordon already was on pit road when it occurred.
“If anyone has any questions, just go back and look at the race and you’ll see that our tire blowing was bad for the 24 [of driver Jeff Gordon], bad for the 5 [of driver Kasey Kahne, another Hendrick teammate] – bad for a lot of guys who were coming to pit road,” Johnson said. “The only silver lining for the 24 was that he was preserved on pit road, and was able to get the Lucky Dog [to get back on the lead lap]. But even then, you have to start at the tail end [of the lead-lap cars]. There was no benefit.”