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Ah-hah! Maybe the key to beat -- or just catching -- Jimmie Johnson is down on pit road

  So who's changing rear tires for Jimmie Johnson this weekend? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   No, Jimmie Johnson isn't Mr. Perfect. He does have his Achilles' heel, and that may be on pit road.
   The last few weeks Johnson's pit crew has made a few too many bobbles, and he concedes there are issues.
   The rear-tire changer spot on Chad Knaus' roster has changed three times over the last six weeks because main man Jeremy West has had a back issue.
    "Yeah, we're certainly concerned about it," Johnson admits. "Team chemistry is an important part of what we do week-in and week-out. And we've worked hard over the years to get the four guys -- two guys changing and two guys carrying.
   "We've worked hard on those positions, and the guys have been so good to us over the years.
    "It's unfortunate Jeremy West had a back issue.
     "Then we had a substitute guy in.
     "Then we found someone to be there full time…and the guy did a good job, but he was maybe a little young in that position. He just needed some more time.
    "So we elected to use somebody else at the California race. And he did well. But the first time I met him was when I climbed out of the car in victory lane.
    "I wish I could tell you his name…but so much has changed, and so much has been going on.
    "It was nice to greet him there.
     "We're feeling good about things. But we don't want to lose spots on pit road. Last week, on the better stops, we maybe lost two to three spots. So we need to get over that hump.
    "But we are able to race up to the front and take care of things on the race track.
    "As long as I leave pit road and everything's tight and we don't have to come back in, I'll be happy.
    "But we're definitely in a tough position. Chad is really working hard on getting it right.
    "The guys that have come through have taken their opportunity seriously and have done a good job.
     "But it's tough this late in the season to bring in a younger person, somebody new to a team, and 'Okay, here you go. We're going for a fourth championship. And by the way, we're midway into the chase and we need to win today. Have a good race."
   And Johnson laughed.

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