4 June 2012
Johnson monsters the Dover mile
Now that he's found his winning groove again, there just seems no stopping five-time champ Jimmie Johnson as he once again put in a dominating display to win the FedEx 400 at Dover.
All that fretting about how long it was taking for Hendrick Motorsports' drivers to get that landmark 200th win are a distant memory now; as is the sight of anything other than a Hendrick car cruising up victory lane at the end of a race.
"So proud of the effort," said Jimmie Johnson as he relaxed afterwards at Dover International Speedway, "It was a brand new race car we brought to the track, had never seen a racetrack before and it rolled off the truck and was awesome all weekend long."
Johnson had only missed pole position by five thousandths of a second on Saturday, and started alongside the veteran race when the green flag fell at the start of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Monster Mile on Sunday afternoon. Johnson took the lead from Martin on the first lap, but the old guy wasn't letting Johnson get away and duly fought back, taking the spot back just as the first yellow came out on lap 9.
The yellow quickly morphed into a red, because the backstretch of the one-mile concrete oval track was now completely blocked by a multi-car wreck. It had started when Landon Cassill moved down the track in front of Tony Stewart and got the slightest tap on the back that started him spinning ever-so-slowly sideways; Stewart immediately tried to back off in order to let Cassill save it, but then from behind Regan Smith arrived unaware of what was going in. He went into the back of Stewart, which didn't help Cassill who promptly lost his battle to save his own car, and after that - well, it was just a chain reaction.
As well as Stewart, Smith and Cassill, those involved were Juan Montoya, Scott Speed, Stephen Leicht, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland, Michael McDowell and Joe Nemechek. Stewart's car was a wreck but the team got to work and got it out in some semblance of order, albeit 70 laps down; Smith was almost 90 laps down when he finally returned to the track, and Montoya toured around over a hundred laps off the lead. Cassill himself was done for the day.
"I got into the back of the #14 and started the whole thing," said Regan Smith. "I'll take full blame for that," he added - quite wrongly as it turned out, as he had simply not been aware of what had been going on up ahead. "Somehow they got checked up in front of me. I just didn't have time to get slowed up with it. I hate that there are so many wrecked race cars here."
"It wasn't Regan's fault," corrected Stewart, who unfortunately had the best seat in the house to know. "He was right behind us, and he didn't have anywhere to go either. Just not a real good deal at the beginning of the race like this."
After a 20 minute red flag, the racing resumed. Martin was able to hold the lead for the next two dozen laps, but finally he succumbed to Johnson on lap 30. Behind them, Matt Kenseth had bested Ryan Newman for third place, and Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer was tussling over fifth. Bowyer won that one, and made easy work of Newman to find himself in a somewhat lonely fourth place on the track some way back from the leaders.
The first round of green flag pit stops came around lap 70, and Martin managed to get the jump on Johnson to reclaim the lead for a short while until Johnson simply reasserted himself back out on the track and went in front again and swiftly started building up a lead over over two seconds; Martin was waning, and behind him Johnson's Hendrick teammate and fellow multiple Cup champion Jeff Gordon was on the move and past Kenseth for third place, setting his sights on the #55 Aarons car.
Tagged as: Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin , Tony Stewart , Clint Bowyer , Ryan Newman , Matt Kenseth , Jeff Burton , Dale Earnhardt Jr , Kurt Busch , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Regan Smith , Dover
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