From ‘Oh, s—!’ to ‘full-blown panic’: Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray on terrifying rides

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LONG POND, Pa. – Rocketing toward the wall at high speed and without any brakes, Jimmie Johnson’s wild ride at Pocono Raceway lasted roughly 4 to 5 seconds but felt like “4 to 5 minutes.

“It was forever,” the seven-time series champion said.

Yet there was only enough time to think one thing.

“Just a huge, ‘Oh, s—!’ ” Johnson said with a smile outside the care center Sunday afternoon after being checked out from a heavy impact that resulted in a 23-minute red flag. “It doesn’t really go any further than that. You’re just like, ‘Wow, this is really going to hurt.’ Then it ended up being soft, and I was like, ‘OK, didn’t expect that.’ You can’t think about much, but ‘Oh s—!’ definitely entered my mind.”

The Hendrick Motorsports driver radioed his team that he “got away with one there” after the brake failure in the first turn on Lap 96. The impact seemed nearly as wicked as Johnson’s head-on crash into a tire barrier at Watkins Glen International during the 2000 Xfinity Series race.

Johnson triumphantly raised his arms after that wreck, but this time, he climbed from his No. 48 Chevrolet and sat against the wall with his arms folded while reflecting on the accident.

Though he wasn’t hurt – “no sore spots, no aches, I feel fine” – he still was shook up after having no warning his brakes were fading before his pedal suddenly went to the floor.

“I just needed a minute,” said Johnson, who speculated the failure was caused by overheating. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse than that. To have it turn out where I just scared myself, I just needed to sit down and catch my breath.”

Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne later crashed with a brake failure.

After the Watkins Glen crash, Johnson told himself he would turn right toward the wall to mitigate such an impact the next time, but instincts still caused him to veer left. He did manage to slam the shifter into third gear and caught the grass, helping slide the car into a slightly more gentle rear-end hit.

Just behind Johnson’s wreck, Jamie McMurray lost the brakes in his No. 1 Chevrolet in Turn 1 just seconds later.

“It was really weird it happened at the exact same time as (Johnson),” McMurray said. “We both turned left, and we probably should have turned toward the wall instead of making it a bigger impact.”

His car caught fire while slowing to a stop along the inside barrier, causing McMurray to yank the air-conditioning hose from his helmet and scramble out of the cockpit with the car rolling.

“I wanted to get out faster and didn’t realize I was moving while getting out,” McMurray said. “It’s amazing how crazy hot it gets inside the car.

“I threw the steering wheel on the dash, and it bounced back and got my legs pinned. I couldn’t get out for a second, and I went from trying not to panic to full-blown panic to get out.”

Johnson could relate to the emotions.

“It gets your attention when you don’t have control of the car like that,” he said. “So now I’ll go change my underwear and head home.”

Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: