Johnson Is Back In Championship Form
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
A couple weeks ago, a lot of Sprint Cup championship hopefuls were basing their hopes on the thought that Jimmie Johnson and his team were looking rather vulnerable this season.
Wonder what they are basing their hopes on now.
Johnson, who has won the past four championships, passed Kyle Busch for the lead with 63 laps to go and went on to earn an easy victory in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday.
The victory was the sixth of the season and first in the Chase for Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.
Johnson, the polesitter, moved from sixth to second in points with the victory. He is 35 behind the leader, Denny Hamlin, heading to next week’s race at Kansas Speedway.
Johnson, who finished 25th in last weekend’s Chase-opening race in New Hampshire, beat second-place Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing to the finish line by 2.6 seconds.
“I may not look a lot excited right now,” Johnson said, “but there’s this huge weight off my shoulders that we were able to win a race in the Chase, rebound from last weekend, and we’re in the middle of this thing and I’m really, really excited.
“I’m excited about what we have ahead. Last weekend; anything can happen. I know Talladega is out there. We did a great job today. We’re in the right position but we’ve got to keep this Impala fast and be there after Talladega. That’s the goal. So we did the best
thing possible. I’ve very, very excited about today. At some point hopefully my wife and my daughter will show up; I thought they might be here now and I can’t wait to celebrate this moment with them too.”
Burton, looking for his first championship, moved from ninth to seventh in points Sunday. He heads to Kansas 80 behind Hamlin.
“Well, everybody is looking at the point standings for sure,” he said. “Our goal at this point is just to keep going. We’re not going to leave a race in the next few weeks with the points lead. We started far enough behind where that is just not going to happen. Last week was really, really frustrating. We had a great car, well we didn’t have a great car, we had a really good car last week and we weren’t able to capitalize and ran out of gas with two to go. We got lucky to finish 15th. Today, we did a good job. The No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was a little stronger. I thought he had the class of the field. But we put some pressure on him.”
Finishing third was Joey Logano.
“I think that’s typical stuff that we’ve had every weekend,” Logano said. “We started towards the back thanks to me in qualifying. The guys did a really good job getting my car good in practice and had a really good car in Happy Hour. Just battled along all day and got the Home Depot Toyota real good. Just a little tight here and loose there, just playing around with it.
“Our car was good – I don’t know if it was good enough to win, but I felt like we were close and I’m excited about that. Want to thank Home Depot, Toyota and all those guys. It’s definitely a good run for us. We still have to work on our consistency. We wrecked last week, we finished third this week so we have to somehow figure out how we can do this week in and week out.”
Fourth and fifth respectively were Chase drivers Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards. Chaser Kyle Busch was sixth.
“We could have been a lot better today,” Busch said. “I’m disappointed with that. We should have been second, that’s where we should have finished. We got loose there and then we made an adjustment to tighten it up and we just never got the tight back out of the car. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) did a great job. All the guys did a great job on pit road. I feel like we’re fine where we’re at, but we’re not showing anything yet and maybe we don’t have to do that until five races to go.”
Hamlin finished ninth.
“It was a decent day,” Hamlin said. “I said in my head today that the number was eight. We missed it by one, but it was a good fight for the FedEx team. We didn’t have the best car today, but we fought through and made something of it. This is what we needed to do to get by this weekend and we feel like we can run with them from here on out.”
Kevin Harvick, who had the points lead for most of the regular season, finished 15th Sunday.
“We drove up to the top 10 nicely,” Harvick said, “but our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet just went too loose on the last three runs, and we couldn’t get it dialed in. We will regroup and be ready for them next week at Kansas.”
Clint Bowyer, the winner of last week’s race and who was slapped down with a 150-point penalty for running an illegal car afterward, finished ?? after being penalized for speeding.
Bowyer was not the only Chase driver to have trouble during pit stops. Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch also got penalized for speeding and Matt Kenseth missed the pits, had to lock up the brakes and then blew a tire as a result. Jeff Gordon was running top 10 until a dropped lugnut on the final pit stop of the day dropped him back.One Comment