action:article | category:SPORTS11 | adString:SPORTS11 | zoneID:40

Home » Sports » Motor Sports

September 29. 2013 7:24PM

Jimmie Johnson shifts into high gear, wins the AAA 400

DOVER, Del.—Jimmie Johnson’s run toward a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship shifted into high gear Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

On two fresh tires to polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s four, Johnson held off his Hendrick Motorsports teammate during a 26-lap green-flag run to the finish of the AAA 400 and made a significant dent in the series lead of Matt Kenseth, who finished seventh.

Johnson picked up his fifth victory of the season, his record eighth at the Monster Mile — breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison — and the 65th of his career. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet vaulted over fifth-place finisher Kyle Busch into second in the Chase standings, eight points behind Kenseth.

Johnson, however, had plenty of cause for concern when he lined up for the final restart with Earnhardt right behind him — on four fresh tires.

“Two (tires) worked good for us in practice,” Johnson said. “And believe me, I wanted to see four tires line up in the fourth or fifth row. When they lined up right behind me, I thought I was going to have my hands full. And I really did. Junior drove a whale of a race, and track position really gave me the advantage I needed to hold him off.”

Johnson also took a moment to enjoy the magnitude of his record-breaking win.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “To do anything Bobby or Richard has done is quite an accomplishment. We’ve had a few sneak away from us here, too, over the years. I’m just happy to get that done and be the sole leader of race wins here. It’s a very special day.”

Johnson held a lead of nearly five seconds when NASCAR called the fourth caution of the race for debris in the form of a spring rubber that had dislodged from a car and landed on the concrete racing surface in Turn 3.

With every lead-lap car short on fuel—with the possible exception of Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota — the yellow presented a welcome opportunity to refuel. Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, opted to change right-side tires only, while Earnhardt’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, called for a four-tire change.

Earnhardt restarted fourth on Lap 375 of 400 and quickly rocketed into second place, but couldn’t catch the five-time champion.

Joey Logano ran third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Busch, as Chase drivers claimed all top 10 finishing positions for the first time in Chase history.

Earnhardt, whose winless streak reached 48 races, relinquished the race lead during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 119 after missing the entrance to pit road on the previous lap. The snafu cost Earnhardt seven positions and 13 seconds on the track, and though a caution on Lap 164 bunched the field and enabled him to make up lost ground, Earnhardt couldn’t mount a challenge to Johnson’s dominance after that.

On a later stop, Earnhardt lost time getting to his pit stall when he had to slow behind Mark Martin’s Chevrolet. Earnhardt conceded that the issues on pit road, particularly the first one, may have changed the outcome of the race.

“Yeah, if you really look at the race as a whole, they did cost us a little bit, at least the mistake I made missing pit road completely. We had the lead, gave up the lead. Jimmie had the lead and was able to take advantage of that clean air when it counted.

“If I had not given up that track position, had a smart enough race to keep the lead when it counted right at the end, we might have won the race. It would have been hard to get by us, just like it was (hard) to get by Jimmie.

“I think missing the commitment cone was a big factor in us not finishing one spot ahead of where we are. But the other pit stop wasn’t that big a deal. I came on pit road about as hard as I could. The 14, Mark, was running maybe five, 10 miles an hour slow in the first couple of (pit road timing) segments. I don’t know that cost us a ton of time.”

Chase drivers Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards were casualties of bad luck and a broken part, respectively. Busch was caught two laps down after an early green-flag pit stop that preceded the second caution on Lap 164. He finished 21st and dropped to ninth in the standings, 55 points behind Kenseth.

Edwards, who entered the race fourth in points, took his car to the garage on Lap 377 with broken hub, finished 35th and plummeted seven spots to 11th in points, 65 out of the lead.


 NH Sports Angle more
Links to news and happenings around the world of sports with a Granite State connection, updated daily.

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk, right, tangles with Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask in the first period of Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals hockey playoff series in this 2013 file photo.

NH-based insurer sues NHL to limit its defense in players concussion lawsuits

A's claim former Fisher Cat Marcus Walden

Mariano Rivera's son to pitch for NH squad

Kevin Davis, CEO and president of Bauer Performance Sports, displays Bauer Hockey's latest innovation in hockey skates — the Vapor APX 2 with easily changeable skate blades in this 2013 file photo.

Exeter-based Bauer continues to expand beyond hockey with $330M purchase of baseball firm Easton-Bell

Hollis-Brookline head football coach resigns unexpectedly

New owners for Waukewan Golf Club

Matches announced for USA v. Cuba clash at Rockingham Park this weekend

Boston Marathon victim Jeff Baumann throws out the first pitch prior to the start of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park last year.

Service's creed on display in support of airman affected by Boston bombing

40-year-old Manchester mechanical engineer wins MMA decision

New Hampshire Motor Speedway touts viability of casino site in Loudon

USA Knockouts Tamed in Cuba

U.S., Cuba boxers clash in Havana, U.S. bouts set for Rockingham Park in Salem

Lee USA Speedway opens season April 13

Newmarket woman plans world-record cross-country run for charity

CHIP KELLY

Is Chip Kelly racist?

World Series of Boxing event moved to Rockingham Park - USA vs. Cuba

Manchester man in top 30 candidates for Padres public address announcer

NH man helps MLB players deal with stresses on, off the field

Review of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook

New Hampshire Motor Speedway may run Sprint Cup race in 2015 under the lights

How Boston lost the Patriots and 'New England' grabbed the NFL's 'Gold Standard'

Twin State Speedway gets new manager

Yale promotes former UNH coach to offensive coordinator

Bulldogs sign UNH's Nick Sorkin

Flyers Notes: Flyers sign speedy New Hampshire forward

MORE

 New Hampshire Events Calendar
    

    SHARE EVENTS FOR PUBLICATION, IT'S FREE!

Upcoming Events

 New Hampshire Business Directory

  

    ADD YOUR BUSINESS TODAY!