By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
In last year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover, Jimmie Johnson had his race – and his hopes for a record-tying championship – waylaid by the failure of a rear end seal.
On Sunday, as Johnson led the field to green for a restart on Lap 355, an uncooperative transmission kept his car from surging forward and ultimately started a wreck that involved half the remaining field in Sunday’s AAA 400.
As Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet failed to launch, the outside lane accordioned behind him, and Johnson turned sideways after contact from Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota. Cars behind him bounced off the walls and off each other.
“As soon as I went from second (gear) and tried to go to third, I kind of got up into the neutral gate of the transmission and didn’t even go to third,” Johnson said. “It stopped before it ever went to third. And then I tried fourth and third and fourth and eventually I got hit from behind. There was a long pause there where I was trying to, I thought maybe I missed a shift; but it wouldn’t go in gear.
“Martin was good and patient with me. He gave me a couple of opportunities to try to find a gear, and it just locked out and wouldn’t go into gear for some reason. It was still that way at the end, and I couldn’t drive the car and I don’t think I’m all that damaged, but unfortunately I lost a shot at winning, and I hate to see all those cars tore up.”
From Johnson’s perspective, the malfunction was unprecedented.
“In my career, I’ve never had a transmission do that to me,” he said. “I’ve had them kind of lock out of reverse at a test session or even in the garage area or something, but to lock out and not go across the gate and then no gear available is something I’ve never had before.”