Jimmie Johnson was left frustrated after running out of fuel with three laps to go while leading at Michigan International Speedway.
The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion led 134 of the race's 200 laps, but after stopping for fuel and tires for the last time on lap 149 he was forced to save fuel during his last stint in order to make it to the checkered flag without an extra stop.
Johnson was in the lead when his car ran out of fuel with three laps remaining as he was exiting Turn 4, allowing him to pit immediately. However he struggled to fire up his car again and eventually finished 33rd and a lap down on winner Brian Vickers, who had stopped for the last time on the same lap as him.
Johnson had already run out of fuel on the last lap at Michigan in June, losing a victory that looked certain, something that has left the Hendrick Motorsports driver wondering what is wrong with his fuel-saving tactics. Earlier this year at Pocono, he ran out of fuel in the closing laps while fighting for victory.
"I'm certainly frustrated," Johnson said after the race. "We've won one race on fuel mileage ever – it is just not what we are good at. I think it is a little too risky for us to even try it. We got lucky once in Phoenix; outside of that, we always come up short.
"From inside the car, I did all I could. I mean, I was running half-throttle for 80 to 90 percent of that run. I don't know how else I could have saved any. It's just the way it goes. We had a lot of power under the hood, it takes a lot of fuel... we had a great car.
"It sucks to have stats like we do here, leading laps and not go to victory lane, but we are working hard at it."
Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus echoed his driver's frustration, agreeing that racing on fuel mileage is not one of his team's specialties. Knaus said they took a gamble to try to win, something that they probably wouldn't repeat during the Chase.
"When you lead all the laps; when you get to the end, you don't want to just fall back and settle for a fifth- or a sixth-place finish. If you look at our stats, we've won one race on fuel mileage. That was Phoenix [April 2008] and I don't know how that even happened.
"Whenever we try to stretch it, it just never works. We've run out more times than not when we were trying to make it. In the Chase, we wouldn't take a chance like this. We have luxury to do it right now."
Johnson dropped to third place in the driver standings as Jeff Gordon's runner up finish moved him up to second.