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Johnson Wins Four-Wide Talladega Drag Race

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011

Jimmie Johnson, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushing, won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

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Jimmie Johnson, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushing, slipped past Clint Bowyer and his wing man Kevin Harvick at the finish line on the final lap and won the Aaron’s 499

Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon.

The margin of victory was .002 seconds.

And that was the margin between first and second. There were six other cars – spread four-wide across the track – who all had a shot at the victory.

“It was kind of a drag race,” Jeff Gordon, one of the eight drivers elbowing their way to the checkered flag said.

The victory was the first of the season for Johnson, the defending series champion. It broke a 15-lap “slump”.

“We did everything we could do,” Bowyer said. “Circumstances, man. All hell broke loose is what just happened.”

Gordon, who was being pushed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin, was third.

Earnhardt was fourth and Harvick was fifth.

Earnhardt said he would have loved to win and give fans packing the capital of Earnhardt Nation a thrill, but that it just made sense to keep pushing Johnson.

“I was more comfortable pushing Jimmie,” he said. “I told Jimmie not to lift no matter what. I was just trying to stay in back of him and not wreck him. It was a great finish for us. It was a great weekend.”

Carl Edwards and his Roush Fenway Racing teammate/pusher Greg Biffle, was sixth – pressed up against the outside wall by Bowyer and Harvick.

The race featured the kind of two-driver drafting which has become pro forma at restrictor plate tracks. Because of that 26 drivers led laps and the lead changed hands 88 times.

The race featured a couple of big wrecks. The first, which came on lap 90 of the 188-lap race, occurred when Kurt Busch’s bumped teammate Brad Keselowski. Keselowski went up and hit the outside wall.

At about the same time,  the car of David Ragan caught fire. Kasey Kahne, caught up in the wreck, also had his car go up in flames. Also involved was Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

“I was just down the back straightaway,” Ragan, who led two laps, said. “Matt (Kenseth) and I were just cruising and I smelled smoke and oil, like someone was blowing up.  I looked at our gauges and I thought it was me at first, and then I realized it wasn’t and then I saw the 2 (Keselowski) spin and someone clipped us in our right-rear quarter and I was just along for the ride.”

Bayne, who led five laps Sunday, said,  ”I was excited about it because anytime Greg (Biffle) and I wanted to go, we would go right to the front.  We led some laps there.  We hung out in the back when we wanted to.  I thought we were kind of out of harm’s way there, but, obviously, we weren’t far enough back out of it.”

The second biggie occurred with 49 laps to go when Kyle Busch was spun when pushed from behind by teammate Joey Logano. Collected was Matt Kenseth, the winner of last weekend’s race at Texas, and A.J. Allmendinger.

“I was just following Kurt and we were going straight on the bottom and the next thing I knew I was head-on into the wall, so I really don’t know what happened,” Kenseth, who led eight laps, said. “Obviously, somebody got into my right-rear and got us up in the wall, but I don’t know.

“You can’t see anything.  All you can see is the spoiler in front of you and I was just trying to stay on Kurt and wait until the end.  Kurt is extremely good at this and we were able to work our way up in there.  I thought we were gonna have a shot there at the end, but you knew there were gonna be a bunch more of these wrecks.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011
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  • Marybeth says:

    I find it odd that JJ did not have the as much power as Jr. did so that Jr. had to push JJ; to the most laps lead, & the win. I find it odd that for the whole race Jr. had to stay paired with JJ & not free to race with whomever he wanted to, as the Gibbs teammates & RCR & many others were. This pattern made sure that Jr. did not have a chance of winning & a tool to make sure that JJ did.