Sunday Notebook: Jimmie Johnson was applying pressure before his race fell apartClint Bowyer entered Sunday's race looking two points ahead, not 32. After Jeff Gordon wrecked him last Sunday at Phoenix, Bowyer was fourth in the Sprint Cup standings, two points behind Kasey Kahne.
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- After pitting for fuel and tires on Lap 205 of Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Brad Keselowski had a sinking feeling Jimmie Johnson was going to win the race.
Keselowski also knew he would have to stop for fuel one more time, and he knew that Johnson, who had come to pit road on Lap 158, could go the distance after stopping on Lap 214.
Keselowski made a quick calculation after his pit stop. If the race stayed green till the end, he would cycle out 23rd in the running order after his final stop. That wasn't good enough to win the championship, if Johnson won the race.
A loose lug nut and a punctured oil line nullified the best efforts of the No. 48 team, leaving Johnson third in the standings behind Keselowski and Clint Bowyer and frustrated in his attempt to rally for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Johnson was surprised Keselowski didn't cover his move when he topped off the fuel tank on Lap 158.
"Yeah, I was surprised, and I think they were trying for track position and probably a little frustrated with being stuck in the middle of the pack," Johnson said. "It's tough to really race hard when you come down here and you have something to protect. I've been through it enough, and I definitely think those guys were feeling it today.
"Maybe (they were) outside of their game a little bit, and going for the fuel-mileage perspective, and it gave us an opportunity. It was definitely going to make things interesting. Unfortunately, we couldn't execute at the end."
Clint Bowyer entered Sunday's race looking two points ahead, not 32. After Jeff Gordon wrecked him last Sunday at Phoenix, Bowyer was fourth in the Sprint Cup standings, two points behind Kasey Kahne.
But Bowyer finished second to Gordon at Homestead and not only passed Kahne but also overtook Jimmie Johnson, who entered the race second in the standings, 32 points ahead of Bowyer, but fell out in 36th place after breaking an oil line.
To his surprise, Bowyer finished 39 points behind champion Brad Keselowski, one point ahead of Johnson and 16 ahead of Kahne who ran 21st Sunday thanks to a pit road speeding penalty.
"To be honest with you, I had no idea," Bowyer said. "I didn't even think I could reach second. I was focused on two points behind the 5 (Kahne). That was my goal was we had to somehow beat the 5, and that's no easy task. They've been running well each and every week. Seems like Kasey will have a good day or a good weekend and then we have a good weekend and we never could really separate ourselves throughout the Chase.
"Seemed like one common denominator separated us for a few weekends and put us right back. Like I said, it's been a fun year, and I'm glad that it's over. I'm going to do whatever I want to do next week -- exactly whatever I want to do, whatever I feel like. Probably going to have some beers. Yes, probably going to hunt something -- then have another beer."
ANOTHER CLOSE CALL FOR KYLE
For the second time in two weeks, Kyle Busch led the most laps in a Sprint Cup race.
For the second time in two weeks, he failed to win. In fact, Busch hasn't closed the deal in the last 10 races in which he has led the most laps. To the driver of the No. 18 Toyota, Sunday's race was a microcosm of a frustrating season behind the wheel.
"That's our year -- that's our year again tonight," said Busch, who 191 of 267 laps. "Amazing race car. These guys (Busch's crew) work so hard all year long, and it's just a shame that we're not able to come out here and be able to put it in Victory Lane like we should and like we know how to do."
When it became clear that fuel strategy would decide the outcome, Busch, who had to make a late stop, was hoping for a caution and began looking for debris that would trigger it.
"You never know if there's going to be a caution, or if something is going to happen, and there never was," Busch said. "You're always hoping that they find some piece of debris."
But that didn't happen, and Busch ended another frustrating evening in fourth place.