Victory in Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway promotes Jimmie Johnson into an elite club in the sporting annals of NASCAR, as he became only the fifth driver in Sprint Cup Series history to clinch ten career wins at a single track.

Johnson's overall 74th victory in 484 Cup starts was indeed his tenth at Dover, and only Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt have ever sealed a double digit number of wins at any one track during their racing careers.

Johnson left it late to pull off the feat, only taking the lead for the first time on lap 383 of the 400-lap race thanks to the decision to stay out while almost everyone else opted to pit under a late caution. There were two more cautions to contend with after that, before a green-white-chequered finish saw him hold off Kevin Harvick by 0.435s at the line to ensure he once again made it to victory lane at the Monster Mile, a place he knows so well by now that he presumably gets right of veto on the colour of the curtains.

CLICK: Full race results from Dover International Speedway.

"I'm almost in shock that we're there," said Johnson as his achievement sunk in. "I mean, 74 race wins, ten here, I mean, you can't dream that big. I'm just blown away and honoured by the success, what we've done with our opportunity and honoured to have a shot at history with Dale and then the ten wins here.

"It's not something that I said, yeah, I'm going to go do that. It's not a goal that I put out in front of myself. It's right there in front of me, so I look at it and think, wow, this is incredible, what an opportunity.

"I came here [Dover] in an ASA car in '88 or '89 and fell in love then, and even though I didn't have the greatest success in the Nationwide car or Xfinity car here, I still loved the track, and then we won both races here in our rookie season," he continued. "You know, it was cool to have the track that I enjoyed so much turn into a track that I could win at, and then we've been able to keep that feeling going for a lot of years ... My love for it has just grown deeper, is about all I can say."

Johnson's success on Sunday was all the more remarkable given that the Hendrick Motorsports squad had looked to be struggling coming into the race. Johnson had been the best qualifier in 14th ahead of Jeff Gordon in 22nd and Kasey Kahne in 25th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been 16th fastest in qualifying but forced to drop to the back of the grid for the start of the race after suffering a problem with an oil leak from the rear end of the #88 during Saturday's afternoon practice.

Instead, it had looked like Joe Gibbs Racing was the team with all the trump cards in its hand this weekend. Having topped qualifying on Friday and dominated both practice sessions on Saturday, Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag alongside Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. Between them, the pair led every single one of the first 159 laps of the day's race, and when they did finally surrender the lead it was to Hamlin's team mate Carl Edwards during a round of pit stops.

But the balance of power and luck was about to change. A caution was out on lap 159 for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hitting the wall off turn 1, and when Edwards came down pit lane he pulled back out with a wedge wrench still stuck in the car and ended up dragging both it and the crew member trying to retrieve it out of the pit stall, resulting in a costly penalty. He would pick up another on lap 254 when he was done for speeding on pit lane, and the two fumbles combined meant that the #19 finished three laps off the pace in 19th position.

"We had a couple problems on pit lane," Edwards admitted. "But the biggest problem was my speeding. I didn't realise I couldn't speed in that segment so I was being a little aggressive and that cost us.

"I did not want to finish 19th today. I thought we had a top-three car, so just frustrating. But, once we got back there man it's very hard to get track position," he said. "Everybody is so close, it's so competitive. The most fun parts were back in the pack on the restarts when it's slick and it's dirty air and everybody is just racing their guts out. That was actually kind of fun."

Truex quickly took back control for the restart but the race was soon under caution again, this for a three-car accident on the backstretch sparked by Roush Fenway Racing's Trevor Bayne moving up the track and making contact with HScott Motorsports' Michael Annett. In the ensuing accident, Annett also inadvertently took out his team mate Justin Allgaier.

"Off of turn 4, I was racing side by side with the #46 for multiple laps and there is a lot of give and take," explained Bayne. "I kept giving him the top and coming off the corner, I got a little tight and then he was there and once we touched the first time, you are hooked together and it turns you."

Bayne was subsequently summoned to the NASCAR hauler after he climbed out of the wrecked #6 car before the emergency workers arrives, a strict no-no under new rules implemented after the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in a regional racing accident last year in upstate New York when he was struck and killed by the car driven by Tony Stewart as he walked back onto the race track to gesticulate at the three-time Cup champion for the incident that spun him out.

"Our on-track incidents, we've been very clear of what we expect and that's if you are involved in an on-track incident and can't continue forward progress, we require you to stay in the car, that's the safest place to be," said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck. "Stay in there with all your safety gear buckled up. If there's smoke or extenuating circumstances, a fire, you feel that you then can get out but you're not supposed to leave the car until instructed to do so.

"That's what we have issue with and we talked to Trevor about it. When he got out of the car, he walked across the racing surface," Buck added. "We'll continue the conversation with him. It was a good conversation. He's got an understanding and an awareness of the situation and what happened. We'll continue that conversation and do what we do on Mondays."

Truex continued to lead through the midway point of the race. He and Hamlin had just completed their latest round of stops when an odd caution for a tyre loose on pit road came out on lap 261, and the timing of the yellows handed Kevin Harvick the lead for the first time of the day. The reigning Sprint Cup Series champion had been having to work hard all afternoon after the track bar on the Stewart-Haas Racing #4 broke early in the race leaving him up against it for the rest of the day, meaning he had to think his way to the front instead.

Harvick had to surrender the lead during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 324 which handed the initiative to Penske's Brad Keselowski who was on a different schedule, but when the #2 came in on lap 357 it was Harvick once again in prime position to pick up the lead with 44 laps remaining. The long green flag stints were muting Harvick's track bar issues, so as long as the race went to the finish with no further cautions it was hard to see him missing out on victory. So naturally, there would just have to be three rapid-fire cautions in the last two dozen laps of the race to thwart him.

"Yeah, we just struggled at the end of the race on restarts, really all day on the restarts," agreed Harvick. "Once the track bar broke, we were pretty much in a box and just kind of had to hold on for the first 25 laps [of each run.] If we weren't in the front, then we struggled to just maintain what we had.

"We've led laps and just haven't quite finished it yet, but a good, solid day," said Harvick, who led 91 laps on Sunday compared with 118 for Hamlin and a race-high 131 for Truex. "All in all, everybody did a great job, and I think when you look at Dover, it's been a good race track for us."

The first of those final three cautions of the day turned out to be another blow for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Kyle Busch getting taken out as he was passing the lapped traffic of Brian Scott's #33 Circle Sport Chevy. Busch - only two races into his Sprint Cup season after missing the start of the year with a broken leg and foot following a racing accident at Daytona in February - was able to climb out and walk away unaided, but it's not the sort of misfortune he needs if he's to fight his way it into this year's Chase championship play-offs in the autumn.

"That was an extremely unfortunate ending to our day," said Scott, taking full blame for the crash. "I apologised to Kyle Busch, his team, sponsors, fans and all of Joe Gibbs Racing. I didn't know he was underneath me until it was too late."

"I guess Brian said his spotter didn't say anything and he just chopped the corner and I was under him already and it just sucked me around," explained Busch, who had been running patiently near the front for almost the entire afternoon. "I hate it. I hate it for my guys. Man, we had a really good run going obviously -- we ran in the top-five all day long.

"This is a shame. This isn't what we need, and we weren't going to win today but it doesn't help when you finish 40th," he said, adding that his previously injured leg was absolutely fine and unharmed after the crash.

Busch's exit came not long after the retirement of his JGR team mate Matt Kenseth with a mechanical issue on the #20 that had left the car shaking so badly that Kenseth said he simply couldn't see to drive anymore. "Not really sure, we broke something in the suspension and I'm not really sure what," he said after bringing the car to the garage area.

The Busch/Scott accident meant that the teams now had a call to make on whether or not to pit under the ensuing caution. Th conventional wisdom was to pit for fresh tyres to avoid being hung out to dry on old rubber at the restart; however, Harvick decided that retaining the lead was more important and so he decided to stay out. Johnson agreed, and when the race went back to green he was able to take advantage of Harvick's chronic track-bar issues and claim the lead for the first time of the day on lap 383.

"What a long hard fought day to get to the front," Johnson said later. "It seemed like four or five of us could run the same speed and just couldn't really pass. We did a great job of hanging in there. My pit stops were awesome. We kind of took a chance on pit sequence to pick off a couple of spots to get us from fifth to third, third to a shot for the win."

A new caution was out almost straight away when Clint Bowyer made contact with Denny Hamlin, sending the #11 spinning and putting the final nail in the coffin of a terrible day for JGR as Hamlin would be knocked off the lead lap and left in 21st place for the finish.

"He just said he was sorry - he ran into the back of us and wrecked us, that was it," said Hamlin after talking with Bowyer after the race. "It's a bad day. We were pretty good at the beginning, not so good in the middle and pretty good at the end. We drove our way back to the top-five and just restarts are crazy."

"I just feel bad for all of my teammates," contributed Edwards who ended up being the top-ranked JGR driver in 19th despite his own pit lane setbacks. "They were running really well and we all had bad luck. Overall, the JGR cars were very fast this weekend and I still believe we're on a big upward swing with our Toyotas."

Johnson and Harvick once again led the field to the green flag on lap 390, and once again Harvick's track-bar issues cost him the advantage as both Martin Truex J. and Kasey Kahne succeeded in getting around him, demoting the #4 to fourth place. But one final caution on lap 398 involving Casey Mears, AJ Allmedinger and Greg Biffle meant that the show wasn't over quite yet, and the race went into five laps of additional green-white-chequered overtime.

Proving that fresh tyres weren't a miracle cure-all on this one-mile concrete oval, Johnson was still stayed out of reach of his pursuers and he was able to pull away. Meanwhile Harvick dug deep, and with Kahne and Truex clashing he popped back up into second place despite his handling problems and crossed the line ahead of a hard-charging Kyle Larson in the Chip Ganassi Racing #42 which just pipped Kahne for third place.

"I was trying to be smart with my line and I guess guys on two tyres weren't all that fast," said a somewhat surprised Johnson at the success of his late race strategy gamble. "That last set of tyres, I was running Harvick down and we ended up staying on them and his car didn't look as strong as it was early in the day and we were able to take advantage of it."

"It's so tough being on the front row trying to abide by the rules and then the guys behind you can leave a little gap and roll up on you," he added. "I went across the start/finish much faster than I thought I was going to. It worked great because it got me past the #5 [Kahne]. A little hairy, but that is what you have to do at the end."

"Really good run for us, first top three of the year, first real kind of solid finish of the year," said Larson of his push into the top three at the very end of the race. "That was just a nice solid day. We ran in the top 10 for most of it. We got off there at the midpoint of the race and got back going decent. Just caught the right lines it seemed like most of those last restarts. Happy with the finish and we will go to Pocono next week, a track I enjoy and hopefully we can do well there too."

"We started back because we didn't qualify good, but we went forward all day," said Kahne, who had indeed had a dreadful qualifying on Friday but found a way back in the race itself. "Started 25th and drove forward throughout the whole race. We got to 12th, 13th and kind of stood there for a little while ... We had a pretty good car, we made good adjustments, the guys did a nice job. I wanted more. It's cool that Hendrick Motorsports won. We had a nice package, but just didn't pull it off."

Kahne lost out at the final restart when he made contact with long-time leader Truex: "He was back behind me to get a run on me, obviously; the spotter said I was clear, so I just went to the bottom getting into 1. I think he was a little upset, he gave me a bump after the race. But I don't know - I didn't really know what else to do other than to go there with guys on my outside."

"I was inside him and he ran me down on the apron - I either had to let off or wreck all of us," Truex stated bluntly, clearly annoyed at once again missing out at a good opportunity for a race win despite another impressive overall performance in 2015. Yet despite leading more laps than anyone else all day and dominating the first half of the race, Truex revealed he had never been entirely happy with the #78's handling.

"We had a good car today but it was never right. We were never right yesterday all through practice. We made some changes today and we made some gains on it, but never really got it where we needed it," he insisted after dropping to a sixth place finish behind Richard Petty Motorsport's Aric Almirola. "Clean air was huge. When we were out front, we were okay. It just never turned good all day long. It just eventually caught up to us."

Behind Truex, the rest of the top ten was filled out by Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, while Joey Logano was the last man on the lead lap by the time the chequered flag came out. His team mate Brad Keselowski was the first man a lap down in 12th despite his 28-lap run at the front in the final quarter of the race.

"We just weren't quite fast enough," said Logano of Penske's current status. "We just keep having the same issues and are we are trying to figure out how to get these cars faster, that is the problem right now. We just aren't fast enough. We tried to go for it there with the pit strategy and staying out and trying to get a caution. That is the only way we can win the race when we aren't fast enough and that didn't play out either.

"We went down a lap and got the lucky dog at the end there and ended up coming home 11th," he added. "I was hoping for another quick caution and I could have stirred it up with them and given it a shot."

At least both Logano and Keselowski can take comfort in knowing that they have time on their side when it comes to figuring the situation out, as both men are all-but assured of autumn Chase spots by virtue of one race win apiece so far this season. Similarly through are Hamlin, Kenseth and Edwards, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch. Harvick has two wins and also leads Truex by 44 points in the championship standings, while Johnson is in third place but will almost certainly go into the Chase as top seed after picking up his fourth win of the season at Dover (previous victories having come at Atlanta, Texas and Kansas.)

The venue for next weekend's race could hardly be any more different from those tracks, with the Sprint Cup field heading to the unique Pocono Raceway tri-oval otherwise known as the 'Tricky Triangle'. Last year, Johnson's team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept both races there, while in 2013 it was Johnson and Kahne who took the honours. Jeff Gordon was also victorious at the venue in 2012, so the expectations for more Hendrick celebrations in victory lane in seven days' time are high indeed.

See full race results from Dover International Speedway and updated Sprint Cup Championship standings.

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