When the No. 48 car spun into the wall on lap 136 of Sunday's NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway, Jimmie Johnson's quest to win his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship appeared to be all but over.
Initially, crew chief Chad Knaus even told Johnson to drive straight to the garage – a move which would have put him several laps down while undergoing repairs.
But using the same resiliency that propelled them to five consecutive titles, the 48 crew went to work to repair the battered and bruised Chevrolet. And the hard work was rewarded as the end result saw Johnson stay on the lead lap and leave Kansas Speedway with a ninth-place result.
"Luckily the damage to the car was really cosmetic," Johnson said. "The suspension was still true and straight and the car drove correctly. That helped me more than anything. If the car was wicked and evil to drive, it would have been a long, long afternoon. Luckily nothing was all that bad and it was just cosmetics."
More important, he was able to keep pace with championship leader Brad Keselowski and leave the weekend just as he entered it – seven points out of first place.
"I'm just now getting a chance to look at the damage on the car and it's pretty severe," Johnson said surveying his wounded ride. "One, I'm impressed that they fixed it as they did and got the spoiler and deck lid back in place. Two, I'm surprised that the car was as fast as it was."
Initially, Johnson's day looked to be promising, as he quickly settled near the front when the green flag waved, before vaulting into the lead on Lap 75 where he paced the field for the next 44 circuits.
But after making an otherwise routine pit stop under the green flag, the caution came out, trapping him mid-pack. And it was then that his day became an adventure, as Johnson overdrove trying to work his way through traffic and pounded the wall.
It was a mistake Johnson would later readily acknowledge, while at the same time kicking himself for giving away what he thought was a possible victory.
"I had a couple of hundred miles to think through the mistake I made," Johnson said. "And I want to be happy because of this amazing comeback the team had, but one little mistake. We didn't lose many points if any, at all today; maybe it's a draw because I led a lap. I'm not sure if Brad did. But it could have been so much more. You don't want to leave points on the table."
If there is any solace in Sunday's result, it is that the series now travels to Martinsville, a track where Johnson is always on top of his game and a place where he's won six times.
"Today we had a fast enough car that I think we could have gotten some points on him (Keselowski)," Johnson said. "So I'm disappointed in that, but at the same time, what we went through to finish and have it be even still is pretty good. So, we'll take it and we'll go to Martinsville and hopefully things will go well."