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Johnson claims Hendrick's 200th win

That meant the race ended up extending into a green-white-chequered finish, which could have proved a problem for Johnson. But all his fuel-saving antics had given him a sufficient margin of safety, and he put his foot down at the restart and eased away from Tony Stewart - who it turned out was the one with the fuel problems after all, and who found himself unable to hold off a late surge for the runners-up spot by Denny Hamlin.

"The fuel pressure light had went down, or the light was blinking when we got the one to go," explained Stewart. "So I had to go down to the apron. It caught on the backstretch. But then we got past the centre of three and four and the light was down to 20 pounds again. It laid down all the way down the front stretch and we lost second because of it."

Stewart had also been suffering from clutch problems during the final third of the race, he revealed. "I broke the clutch with about 85 to go," he confirmed. "Our guys did an awesome job of getting us out of the pits. It didn't affect us on restarts; it just affected us on the pit stops." In the circumstances, holding onto third is a very positive outcome for the Cup champion.

Kyle Busch wasn't much of a threat in that last phase of the race either: “We were just so loose at the end of the race,” he said. “Those late race restarts were terrible ... The track doesn't have any grip.

"All you do is spin the tires, and on the last restart, I tried to give Stewart a little bit of room because he was low on fuel pressure so I wouldn't run over him in case his car shut out," he continued. "I gave him too much room and kind of hurt myself a little bit. I probably gave the #11 a spot. Glad I didn't give another one away to the #56, but we were able to come home fourth."

At least the #11 was his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin, who hung on to second place but had no chance of reaching Jimmie Johnson in the remaining seconds of the race. The Hendrick pits exploded with relief as the magic 200th victory finally materialised for them, and there was no one happier than Johnson himself.

During the final minutes, Rick Hendrick himself had gone pacing up and down pit lane away from the team hauler. Even with 199 wins under his belt, it did nothing to assuage the nerves when it came to number 200.

"I had to get away," Hendrick said. "They said that we were going to make it [on fuel], but I don't believe them!" he admitted, adding: "I'm kind of numb, but I'm glad it's over. I think we're going to win a few more now."

"I think it's phenomenal, especially with the competition over here getting tougher and tougher," said Tony Stewart, himself a relatively new team owner just finding out how difficult it is to run a successful NASCAR Sprint Cup operation. "Especially for it to happen in the Southern 500. It's such a historic race. It's a pretty cool milestone."

The gleam in his eyes said that Stewart had his new life goal - to match the 200th milestone. Hendrick, meanwhile, was already back to work plotting how to get to 250.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with team owner Rick Hendrick after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Saturday in Darlington, S.C.. This is the 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Saturday in Darlington, S.C. This is the 200th Win for Hendrick Motorsports. (Picture Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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