The end of the Thanksgiving Classic was both celebratory and controversial, with the second-place finisher Justin Johnson feeling like he got jipped.
After lap 115 at The Classic, eight cars were inverted, with Philip Morris back to eighth and Johnson assuming the lead. Johnson battled Matt McCall throughout the last half of the race with McCall emerging victorious within the last twenty laps of the race.
It was the final caution at lap 175 that changed the dynamic between Johnson and McCall, with McCall ending up on the inside for the first time after being scored as leader at the yellow.
Johnson though, was unhappy following the conclusion of the race because he said he believes he was the leader at the time of the caution.
As McCall celebrated in victory lane, several members of Johnson’s crew rushed down to yell “the track gave y’all the race” and “this was robbery.” Speaking with Johnson after the finish, he said he was “very disappointed.”
He quickly got an audience with Mike Diaz, who asked him what happened.
“I was leading,” Johnson told Diaz. “I was leading.”
Diaz immediately said he and the race director would review the leader placement at the time of the late caution. “I cleared him for two laps after the last caution, and then the next caution came out and I had led literally the whole time since the last caution, and they put him in front of me,” said Johnson.
“I am going to go back to my staff and try to figure out what happened 100 percent,” Diaz told Johnson.
Johnson’s crew members showed Diaz Race Monitor at lap 175 which showed Johnson in the lead. Diaz clarified that Race Monitor is unofficial. “Race Monitor showed Mason seven laps down and he was only five laps down,” he gave as an example.
Diaz also told Johnson that he understood tensions were high and he would investigate.
Johnson put it plainly: “I had 40 people who tell me I got screwed,” he said.
He told Short Track Scene that he should have been in victory lane tonight.
“I knew it wasn’t right when the caution came out,” he said. His brother is his spotter and immediately began speaking to track officials. “He was talking to the official up there… we were contesting it from that point on.”
Johnson said he didn’t blame McCall.
“For someone to show up and run as competitive as that with pretty much a one race deal, hats off to him and his team, they did a great job,” he said before he shook McCall’s hand.
McCall said he thought he was in the lead. “It was always weird, right, because they go back to the previous lap and it’s LMS racing so there’s not really loops, you know what I mean.” He added that he felt he was “pretty good” at the end.
Justin Johnson and owner promoter Mike Diaz discussing the finish, which Johnson contests: pic.twitter.com/6hptgvPoV7
— Short Track Scene (@ST_Scene) November 26, 2017
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