10x: Jimmie Johnson extends Dover domination in GWC win
Jimmie Johnson’s domination at Dover International Speedway continued with in Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks, extending his record victory tally at the track to 10 career wins in 27 starts at the 1-mile concrete oval.
Johnson needed to put some extra effort into the victory, as the race ended with a green-white-checkered finish, extending the scheduled 400-lap event to 405 laps.
It was Johnson’s fourth win of the season, his third win at Dover in the last four races and 74th career triumph.
The key to Johnson’s win was crew chief Chad Knaus’s decision to keep his driver on the racetrack through the final three cautions while many other drivers pitted for tires and fuel.
“I was just driving hard, working that track bar adjuster as much as I could,” Johnson said. “I tried to be smart with my line, and I guess (be ready for) guys just on two (new) tires, and they never really came. (Kevin Harvick) and I did just fine on our old tires and held those guys off.”
Harvick, who also didn’t pit during the final three cautions, finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola.
Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon.
The GWC was caused when Casey Mears, AJ Allmendinger and Greg Biffle were involved in a wreck with two laps remaining in thed scheduled distance.
Mears appeared to slow suddenly, Biffle got into the rear of Mears’ car, and Allmendinger couldn’t avoid Mears as his car rolled down the track.
How Johnson won: Johnson did the driving and crew chief Chad Knaus plotted the pit strategy. Or in this case, no pit strategy, as Knaus kept Johnson on the track during the last three caution periods. This allowed Johnson to maintain position, grab the lead for good on Lap 383 and stay in first through a green-white-checkered finish for his 10th win at The Monster Mile. Johnson led only the final 23 laps.
Who else had a good day: Harvick rallied in the closing laps for second. Just as Johnson did, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t pit and maintained position. Harvick, who led 91 laps, placed second to keep rock-solid control on his lead in the Sprint Cup points standings. … Kyle Larson also rallied in the final laps to finish third, his top finish thus far this season and first top five of 2015. “Our first good run of the year,” Larson said. “Hopefully have many more. Hopefully this will kind of transition into some momentum for us, for our team, and we can start getting some more top 5 and top 10 finishes.” … Also enjoying a season-best finish was Aric Almirola, who roared back for fifth after falling off the lead lap twice.
Who had a bad day: On Lap 386, 14 laps from the finish, Clint Bowyer got into Denny Hamlin’s car, spinning him into the inside wall off Turn 2. Hamlin’s car bounced off and went up the track, clipping Kurt Busch and sending his car into the wall, as well. … Kyle Busch spent more than 90 percent of the race running in the top five, before being involved in a wreck on Lap 375, 25 laps from the scheduled finish. Brian Scott took the blame for the crash. “We had a really good run going on,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “This is a shame. This isn’t what we need, but it doesn’t help when we finish 40th (he actually finished 36th).” As a result, Busch took a hit in the standings, where he is trying to climb into the top 30 to be eligible for the Chase if he wins after missing the first 11 races. … On Lap 167, Trevor Bayne appeared to cut down on Michael Annett, squeezing the latter into the wall before bouncing back into Bayne. The wreck also collected the car of Annett’s teammate, Justin Allgaier. … Matt Kenseth had suspension problems that ultimately knocked him out of the race in 39th.
Notable: This was the third straight race that Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps but didn’t win. He had a chance to contend on the final restart but was displeased that Kasey Kahne made a move forcing him to jump on his brakes and end any hope of a rally. “I kind of was inside him, and he ran me down on the apron,” Truex said of Kahne. “I either had to let off (the accelerator) or wreck all of us, so I decided to let off.” Truex slid to a sixth-place finish, his 12th top-10 finish in the first 13 races of 2015. … Typically, 16th place isn’t noteworthy. But in Sunday’s race, it was for Tony Stewart, who earned his best finish since Bristol and his third-best showing of the season. “That’s the hardest I’ve had to work for a 16th-place finish,” Stewart said in a team release. ... All cars passed postrace inspection.
Quote of the day: “I mean, this is a good racetrack for them. They had everything line up for them and had a good car, and they had a good car in practice and were able to make it happen there at the end on the restart. He’s just good here.” – Kevin Harvick on Jimmie Johnson and the latter’s win Sunday in the FedEx 400.
What’s next: Axalta We Paint Winners 400, June 7, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.