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Jimmie Johnson Gives Kyle Busch a Scare

July 13, 2008

JOLIET, Ill. _ Another race ended with Jimmie Johnson being close instead of being the closer.

Johnson relinquished his late lead to Kyle Busch on the final lap following a race-changing caution at the LifeLock.com 400 on Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway,

Johnson critiqued his runner-up performance like critics reviewed the finale of “The Sopranos.” He liked everything but the ending.

“Not bad until the last lap,” Johnson said.

Coming out of the ninth caution, Johnson made a costly move when he gave up the outside to Busch on the restart. Busch rode Johnson’s rear bumper until he went high on the track to reclaim his lead on the next-to-last lap, making a move with his momentum to cross the finish line first.

Like a basketball player who watches the player he’s guarding slam a game-winning dunk, Johnson said he forgot to play defense.

“That last restart I should have given him the inside,” Johnson said. “There’s no way I thought with how good my car was that I couldn’t have gotten away from him through 1 and 2. As soon as he broke the plane of my bumper, I knew I was in trouble and sure enough I was.”

Johnson took his first lead of the race when he passed Busch with 17 laps remaining, after Busch had been in control for 163 laps.

What appeared to be a race-winning maneuver was blown by the caution.

Last season, it was Johnson racking up the points and victories, becoming the two-time defending Sprint Cup champion. This season, Johnson has one victory, but five top-five finishes.

Busch, who has seven victories this season, is king of the track so far.

“We’ve been working very hard to get back to race-winning form,” said Johnson, who raced in the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. “The last two or three weeks we’ve been there. We’ve been up front and doing a good job. I’m very proud of the effort. We had a great car tonight.”

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(c) 2008, Chicago Tribune.

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