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Jimmie Johnson Dominates At Dover, Moves In On Point Lead

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 27 2009
Mechanic Joe Claridge gives Jimmie Johnson a beer bath in Victory Lane after his win in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Mechanic Joe Claridge gives Jimmie Johnson a beer bath in Victory Lane after his win in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)


Jimmie Johnson took a big step toward winning a record fourth-straight Sprint Cup championship Sunday when he won the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Johnson clearly had the best car in the race as the only time other drivers were able to get close to him in the second half of the race was on yellow-flag laps. Once the green fell, Johnson would be gone.

“What a race car,” Johnson said. “Awesome race car, awesome day.”

Mark Martin, who won the Chase-opener last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, finished second to maintain his series points lead.

Johnson will head to next Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway second in points, 10 behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

“We were off just a little bit,” Martin said. “It showed on restarts.”

The victory was his second of the season at Dover and the fifth of his career at the Monster Mile.

Matt Kenseth, who missed this year’s Chase, finished third. Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth.

“We got most of our position through pit stops and restarts,” Kenseth said. “I kept getting in the proper lane on restarts and my car would run for two laps, and then I’d get two or three spots, and you had to do it right there because there weren’t many people that could pass very good. So, we had a nice, solid day on pit road, and the car was okay, also, and I was able to get a decent finish out of it.”

Montoya moved up from fourth to third in points and will trail Martin by 65 points when they get to Kansas.

Kurt Busch finished fifth to move up one spot to third in the standings, 75 behind Martin.

Also moving up one spot Sunday was Tony Stewart. He finished ninth to move up to fourth. He trails Martin by 106 points.

The victory was the 44th of Johnson’s career. It tied him with Bill Elliott for 14th on the all-time list.

“That’s so cool,” Johnson said. “Really, really is. I can remember growing you up watching bill in that No. 9 car. And to be able to be higher in the record books and to be with the greats in the sport, it means a lot to me. It’s something that I really never thought would take place, and it’s something I’m experiencing now and the emotions and the thoughts that come with it as I’m climbing up through the record books.

“So it’s a great honor. An exciting thing for me is I feel like there is a lot of racing left in me and a lot of competitive racing. I can keep climbing that ladder and be higher up there in the record books.”

This Chase is beginning to look a lot like the last three Chases as Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, begin to flex muscle at the crucial times.

Knaus was asked if he thought maybe he and Johnson were starting to get inside the heads of the other Chasers.

“I’m excited to see that we’ve gapped some of the other chase contenders,” Knaus said. “Might not be exciting for the fans and everybody else, but the bigger gap we can put between us and those guys to single out the cars, the easier my job is. That’s what I hope we can keep doing.

“But as far as sending a message, I hope it does. I hope people talk about it. Like I is said earlier, I hope people are worried. I hope people are talking about the fact that we tire tested and it’s wrong. All these people can get wound up about stuff that really doesn’t matter.

“We’ll keep our heads down. Keep our blinders on, and we’ll go to work. At the end of the day, all the talk means nothing. You’ve still got to show up in Kansas and run that race. That’s what we do a good job of staying focused on doing.”

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 27 2009