Monday, June 1, 2009

Jimmie Johnson charges to front at Dover


Jimmie Johnson took four tires on the final pit stop of the day and roared through the field to pass Tony Stewart with two laps to go and went on to win Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Johnson was able to pull away from Stewart after his pass for the lead and went on to score his second win of the season and fourth career triumph at Dover."The strategy at the end was kind of goofy," Johnson said. "We weren't sure if we should stay out, two or four. Fortunately I had such a good car I could run around the top. I got up there in third and started hunting those guys down. My hats off to Tony Stewart. That was one heck of a race. I had to drive so far over my head to get by him. Just very proud of this effort and what we did out there on the race track today."

Johnson led a race-high 298 laps on Sunday en route to his first win at the "Monster Mile" since the fall of 2005."We had an awesome, awesome race car and I can't thank these guys for working so hard to get us cars that drive that comfortable," Johnson said.

"I mean we've been fast, but this was a very special car today. I've got to thank (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and those guys in the engine department and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports."

Stewart was able to score his sixth top-five finish in the season's first 13 races."Just pretty excited about the end of the day there," Stewart said. "It was fun racing with Jimmie like that. Definitely the fastest car. They've been the fastest car all day, so there's no shame in running second to a guy that led the most laps all day. So pretty excited about it."

Stewart now leads Jeff Gordon in the Sprint Cup Series point standings by 46 and is the first owner-driver to lead the standings since Alan Kulwicki won the 1992 series title."Obviously that stat there is pretty cool, to be leading the points standings this early into the new venture," Stewart said. "But really proud of our guys to give us equipment that puts us in this position."

Greg Biffle, who led laps in the closing stages, was able to hang on for a third-place finish. His finish came after he was caught a lap down early in the race."Man, we had a great car, and you know, what really probably screwed our day up was getting caught on Pit Road," Biffle said. "We were running second. I was catching the 48, and we went through the green flag pit cycle, and I ended up a lap down at the tail end of the lead lap or whatever, and the 48 was still the leader with four new tires. So I'm not sure how that all played out. "But we spent the rest of the day getting back all the way to the front, so we ran in traffic all day. Once I got back toward the front, the car started getting loose, and then once I got out front with two tires it was so loose I couldn't drive it. Just really tough to drive out front."

Matt Kenseth and Kurt Bush rounded out the top five.Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Casey Mears and Mark Martin complete the first ten finishers.Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his first race with new crew chief Lance McGrew, finished 12th.

“I’m happier," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I would like to have run better than 12th. We had the car really good there for most of the race. We got it a little too loose, then got real tight trying to fix it. Track position was real important and we didn’t have it at the end of the race. We had good communication and we made the car a little better, by lap 200, I was pretty happy and pleased. We need to keep doing that."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Pocono International Raceway for next Sunday's Pocono 500.

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