Jimmie Johnson Scores Monster Win At Dover International Speedway

by June 1, 2014

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

DOVER, Del. – Jimmie Johnson earned his second victory of the season this weekend after winning the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

The No. 48 Lowe’s team has been in question since the earlier part of the season, because it took them 12 races to reach Victory Lane. However, Jimmie Johnson proved Sunday afternoon that he and his team are just getting started after scoring back-to-back victories.

“But we can get on a roll,” Jimmie Johnson said. “We’ve got some good tracks ahead for us. I think that tracks really build momentum for teams and drivers, and going to Charlotte is a great track, here is a great track for us, Pocono next weekend is Chad’s favorite racetrack, and I think you can look ahead at the summer months and see who historically runs well at different tracks and kind of pick your favorites. It certainly has been that way for us. The tracks we’ve been bad at, we’ve gone there and been embarrassed by our performance, and then the tracks that are good to us still have been good to us.”

Johnson led 272 laps en route to his ninth win at the Monster Mile. With 2,976 laps led at Dover, Johnson has now surpassed NASCAR Hall of Fame driver, Bobby Allison for most laps led at the speedway. Allison’s previous record was 2,802 laps led. Johnson has earned 18 top-10 finishes in 25 starts at Dover.

“It was an awesome race car,” Jimmie Johnson said. “The first run I wasn’t sure we were really going to have the normal Dover magic here. Once the track ‘rubbered’ in our car came to life and it was so good. It’s amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires. This place just fits my style and Chad Knaus’ style.”

Not long after Kyle Busch led his 10,000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lap, he and Clint Bowyer got together out of turn four to bring out the caution on lap 126. Busch was going for the trifecta after he won Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race. After the two drivers tangled, Busch tried to chase down Bowyer during the caution to repay the favor, but he thought better and pulled to the garage.

“I hated that with Kyle (Busch) obviously,” Clint Bowyer said. “We’re teammates so to speak with the manufacturer and it was a bad deal. Obviously I thought I was clear and he kind of got up there and I thought he was going to give it to me and he didn’t. Ruined his day for sure and certainly didn’t help ours.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and AJ Allmendinger made contact in turn two, collecting Greg Biffle to bring out the caution on lap 135. After the contact, Allmendinger hit Biffle that sent him hard into the outside wall. Biffle’s car bounced off the wall and hit his teammate, Stenhouse Jr. Landon Cassill spun to avoid the carnage, as well. The red flag lasted for 6 minutes and 39 seconds while all of the foam and other debris were cleaned up on the backstretch.

Greg Biffle said, “Inside of the car I didn’t really know what happened. I just knew that the 47 got into us pretty hard and turned us into the fence. After watching the replay I see what happened. They were racing hard back there and he stuck it into a hole that maybe there wasn’t room for. There definitely wasn’t room come three-quarters of the way around the corner I guess and he slid off the bottom and got his right-rear caught by the 17 and up into us. It was a chain reaction. This place is tight and fast and when you get racing that hard back there on a restart stuff like that is going to happen.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said, “We were really loose. The 47 jumped to the inside of us there and I tried to stay out of his way and he got me. We met right-rear to left-front and it got him sideways and everything else happened after that. Our Nationwide Insurance Ford was really, really loose all race long and we were trying to hang on with it. We didn’t want it to end that way and we got our teammate caught up in it and tore up a lot of cars. That is now what we wanted to do. It is a tough end to our day. It is a bummer. We started the race so loose and we were hoping we could get it tightened up and be able to make some ground up but we were just really, really loose.”

Jamie McMurray brought out the caution on lap 159 when he ran over a piece of concrete that shot out from underneath Ryan Newman’s car in the exit of turn two. As a result, McMurray sustained damage on the front of his Chevrolet from the concrete and on the right side after he hit the wall.

“I’m not 100% sure,” Jamie McMurray said. “I guess that the race track came up. And when I came off of the corner, it just felt like I hit something, obviously, heavy. Initially I thought I’d blown a tire out. When I hit it, it actually pushed the car to the right and I got into the fence a little bit. And as I slowed down, I couldn’t figure out first off, why I didn’t hit the fence harder, and then what happened. I didn’t see anything. It just hit the front end and ripped the splitter off and it pushed the car to the right. So, I’m not real sure.”

On lap 161, the red flag came out once again when the track had to be repaired in the exit of turn two. Track officials cemented a large hole, as well as a smaller section of the track before the field went back to the green. The piece of concrete McMurray hit also damaged the glass on the crossover that hangs above the track in turn two. The red flag lasted for 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

“Well, the track doesn’t want things like this to happen any more than we do or the competitors do, so this isn’t a recommendation,” Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition and Racing Operations for NASCAR said in reference to NASCAR making any recommendations to Dover’s upcoming Chase race. “I mean, you always go into a facility — things happen, and that’s why we have — that’s why we’re trained, we have people that are trained in these types of things, and that’s why the group is able to make repairs in 20 minutes or so.

“You always have to be ready for the emergencies and you don’t have to recommend because everybody wants to have the same perfect race day as they can.”

At the time of the red flag, Kevin Harvick led Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson. After the field went back to green, Kevin Harvick had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 167 for a flat right front tire.

On lap 394, only six laps from the finish, the caution came out for debris from Casey Mears’ flat tire. Jimmie Johnson had almost a three second lead over Matt Kenseth and was looking to cruise to another victory. During the caution, lead lap cars used various strategies for one last dash to the finish. From about sixth on back, drivers got tires while the leaders stayed out.

The field took the green with four laps to go. On the restart, Matt Kenseth who started on the outside of the front row didn’t get a good start. Clint Bowyer gave him a push, but unfortunately, he sent Kenseth into the wall. That allowed Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski to separate from the rest of the field. In the end, no one had anything for Jimmie Johnson as he went on to win his 68th career victory. Brad Keselowski finished second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.

“The car was really strong the second half of the race,” Brad Keselowski, second place finisher said. “My guys made great adjustments on it and we drove up to second there. We were pretty equal to Jimmie there but never got a crack at him. I would have liked a shot. It was a decent day for us finishing second and that is something to be proud of but we want one spot more.”

With Matt Kenseth’s third place finish, he now leads the driver point standings by only two points over Jeff Gordon who finished 15th on Sunday.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400 on Sunday, June 8. This will be the first race aired on TNT this season. You can also listen live on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 1 p.m.

FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks Top-10 Results:
1.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
2.) #2 Brad Keselowski
3.) #20 Matt Kenseth
4.) #15 Clint Bowyer
5.) #11 Denny Hamlin
6.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
7.) #14 Tony Stewart
8.) #22 Joey Logano
9.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10.) #27 Paul Menard

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Point Standings Top-10:
1.) #20 Matt Kenseth
2.) #24 Jeff Gordon -2
3.) #99 Carl Edwards -25
4.) #48 Jimmie Johnson -27
5.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -34
6.) #22 Joey Logano -49
7.) #18 Kyle Busch -52
8.) #2 Brad Keselowski -59
9.) #11 Denny Hamlin -84
10.) #42 Kyle Larson -86