When crew chief Chad Knaus told Jimmie Johnson that he'd have to squeeze 89 laps out of his final tank of fuel, Johnson wasn't happy -- because he knew the implications.
With a car capable of winning, Johnson instead had to back down his lap times drastically to save enough fuel to get to the end of Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Ultimately, Johnson saved enough gas to finish fourth, a better result than that achieved by Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin, who had to pit late for fuel and came home seventh and eighth, respectively. But it was hardly a satisfying conclusion for Johnson, who surrendered the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lead to race winner (and master fuel conservationist) Brad Keselowski.
"For starters, we're not very good at fuel-mileage races," Johnson said frankly. "So, when I heard that, I'm like, 'Man, we're in big trouble.' And (Knaus) asked me to start saving fuel. And I doubled the distance out of the gate just to make sure that I did enough to get us to the end. So, it's tough; it really is.
"But we have a handful of races that come down to it each year and we've worked to get better at it. And this is like the second of 15 or something that we've attempted to finish in a low-fuel situation and got it done. So I'm improving and we're improving. I wish we could have raced for it. We finally got control of the race, late, but it just didn't unfold like a normal race here."