"We win as a team, we lose as a team" was all Jimmie Johnson could say following a runner-up finish in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson was referring to his last pit stop of the afternoon when, while leading, he came down pit road for what should have been a routine pit stop. But there was nothing routine as it took his crew 17 seconds to gas his Chevrolet and change four tires.
As a result, his sizeable lead vanished and he fell seven seconds behind eventual winner Ryan Newman. And with just a handful of laps remaining, it was a deficit he couldn't overcome.
"These things are so hard to win," Johnson said. "Having a race‑winning car like we did, I hate to let this opportunity slip by. But it's gone, not a lot we can do about it. We'll come back next year and try to do it again."
Blunders late in races have been an ongoing problem for the No. 48 team this season. Last month, overeagerness on restarts cost Johnson almost certain victory at Dover and Kentucky. Another potential win at Michigan went awry due to flawed strategy.
"There's been some late‑race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us," Johnson said. "Granted not a major event like this."
Despite the rash of self-inflicted mistakes, Johnson still has four wins on the year. He also holds a robust 75-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer.
But he knows he should have had his fifth win of the year Sunday.
"We win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We'll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by tomorrow afternoon."
He entered the weekend in pursuit of his fifth Brickyard victory and as the overwhelming favorite. Throughout practice and qualifying, Johnson did nothing to dispel the belief and started Sunday on the outside of the front row alongside pole-sitter Newman.
Patient early, Johnson followed Newman for the first 29 circuits before asserting himself up front. From there the No. 48 car would go on to lead 73 of the next 103 laps.
But then came the fateful pit stop that changed the outcome.
"Came up short," said Johnson. "Definitely not what we wanted, but a solid performance."