Subway Fresh Fit 500: Jimmie Johnson unhappy with how Edwards restarted race

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

When Ken Schrader hit the wall in the closing laps of Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway to setup a green-white-checkered finish, it seemed obvious to everyone that the subsequent restart would likely decide the outcome.

That was what transpired as Carl Edwards appeared to get the jump on Jimmie Johnson and pull away for his first victory in nearly two years.

Johnson, however, took umbrage with how Edwards approached the final two restarts of the afternoon.

"I felt like Carl didn't follow the restart protocol and was slower than the pace car on his last two restarts and it gives the leader a huge advantage when that happens," Johnson said post-race. "You're supposed to wait until you get between the two lines and take off and this was all going on before it."

Edwards saw it differently. In fact, he thought it was Johnson who was trying to play games with him.

"Usually the guy in second hangs back a little bit and tries to watch, and he pulled up there, and I thought, man, why is he doing that," Edwards explained. "So maybe I was slowing down, but I wasn't trying to. I thought he was speeding up, and I thought it was pretty genius what he was doing because he kind of got me off of my game.

"But truthfully that was not by design. I was not trying to do anything tricky. I thought he was."

Nevertheless, while it may be hard for him to accept, Johnson does have a lot to be happy about. He did finish second in a race where passing was difficult and track position was everything.

More so, accompanied with his win in last week's season-opening Daytona 500, Johnson's fast start to the year has given him an eight point advantage over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski, who are tied for second overall.

No matter, though, even as he was happy with how the first two races have unfolded, Johnson still couldn't get over those pivotal two restarts that in his view decided the outcome.

"You're supposed to maintain the speed of the pace car," Johnson said. "I maintained the speed of the pace car and the 99 (Edwards) is dropping back. At some point you can't see the guy to know when he's going to accelerate, and that's the goal of the leader.

"If he can get you looking and get out of your sight and punch it, you never have a chance to recover and that is why the rule states that you're supposed to maintain pace car speed."

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