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What's wrong with Chevy's teams? Oh, so fast...and yet now 0-for-3?


How could a day that started so perfectly -- Jimmie Johnson here on the pole for the green -- end in such chaos? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   So Chevy teams, despite all that speed and all that hype, and all those bodies to throw at this game, are 0-for-3 leaving Las Vegas for Atlanta.
   Richard Childress men Clint Bowyer and Jeff  Burton survived Sunday's carnage and held their cars together for the stretch run, but neither had anything for Toyota's Kyle Busch in the Shelby 427.
   And the rest of the Chevy gang, well, they didn't have much to smile about at all.
   Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both botched key pit stops.
   Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. got a lap down with an untimely caution as he was pitting.
   And fourth teammate Mark Martin blew an engine. "I know we probably knocked our bearings out. We broke a rod," Martin said.
   "Last week (more engine trouble) was pretty explainable; it was a different batch of valve springs. I've seen that movie before.
    "This one is a little bit more puzzling. The oil pump belt is still on it. I can't understand what happened. This stuff is usually bulletproof.
    "This one doesn't make much sense."
     The Rick Hendrick teams have so far been dogged with numerous problems and issues this season.
     "I got down into turn one on the outside of Jamie McMurray, and maybe it was just a little too high, and I got in the dirty stuff and just lost it," Johnson said of his late crash.
    "There were some bad calls that ended up hurting us -- one on pit road: We'd selected our pit stall on the other side of the start/finish line so  if the caution came out we wouldn't be held on the lead lap. I think NASCAR missed that call…but I've got to go back and look at the tapes and see exactly how that works out.
    "And then they should have thrown the red well before (his crash, on a dirty track).
    "All that wrapped up into my frustration in trying to get to the front.
    "We had the best car (he led the most laps). It was just unfortunate I just got a little too aggressive and piled it up."
   And Johnson nearly had a catastrophe on pit road,  narrowly avoid a collision with Bobby Labonte.
   "I thought Bobby was doing four tires, because they had finished the rights and they were going around," Johnson said of what he saw through the windshield, coming in behind Labonte. "Evidently they were doing two, and I just didn't anticipate it."
   That followed an earlier pit stop where Johnson simply missed his pits and had to be pushed back, losing time.
   "Chad (Knaus, his crew chief) and the spotter were talking at the same time, and there was some traffic getting ready to leave the pits, and I couldn't hear or understand where I was supposed to go," Johnson said. "And the glare was pretty bad.
   "By the time I saw my pit stall, it was just too late, and I slid through it."
   Teammate Earnhardt can relate – he had another pit road problem: "I just keep giving everybody ammunition.
   "When I got toward pit road, I really got on the brakes hard, and it wheel-hopped. It was just my fault.
    "When you're wheel-hopping, you can't read the tach. And I knew it didn't matter if I could read it -- it was going to be too fast.
    "But just trying, man, trying hard.
   "We ran good last week and didn't get anything to show it. That's so frustrating.
    "The most frustrating thing about racing is when you run good and you've got nothing to show for it, and no credibility.
    "We ran good, ran better than 10th most of the day. We put ourselves behind a couple of times….but these are the kind of runs we need in the next five or six weeks to get back up in there for a chance at the chase."
   Earnhardt is 29th in the standings, 192 points down to new tour points leader Jeff Gordon…who had a miserable day but still finished sixth.
  "We had an awesome car, and it was a fun battling for the lead with my teammate Jimmie," Gordon said.
    "I just was coming to pit road and saw the guys behind me, and they looked like they were coming down on me pretty hard, so I tried to get off on the apron. And when I did it just locked the left-front up and missed pit road.
    "And that blew the left-front. We got fortunate that the caution came out."
   For Gordon himself.


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