Johnson Puts On Late Show To Win The 500
Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The victory was the five-time Sprint Cup champion’s second in the big race as he did it in 2006.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, was second and Mark Martin of Michael Waltrip Racing was third.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski was fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.
Johnson led just 17 laps in getting the win – win which came in his 400th Cup start.
“It is just awesome. There’s no other way to describe it,” he said. Four hundred starts, every one of those starts with Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports. To be the first to win in a Gen‑6 car, and that car is a Chevy SS, just a very proud moment.
“Plate racing has been tough on the 48 as we all know for the last few years. Happy to get through it all. Just a strong racecar. I feel like the speed our car had in it allowed me to really have control of the race there late. I felt like I was sitting on something all day and was just ready to have some fun when it counted, and it did.”
The victory was the seventh for team owner Rick Hendrick.
“Well,” Hendrick said, “this is the Super Bowl of all of racing. I remember the first one. Every one of them has been special. But we had a dry spell down here. I think it was it ’06, and this is our seventh one now. You can be in front going into three and you never make it back to the line.
“I was really happy today to see our cars be able to run 1‑2. It’s a great feeling. It gives you a lot of momentum to start the year.”
Keselowski had the lead when the race restarted from caution with 19 laps to go. When the field regrouped to the single-file racing that characterized most of the day, Biffle was second, Danica Patrick third and Jeff Gordon fourth.
With 16 laps to go, a bottom line – rare on the day – formed with Johnson at the head of it. A lap later Johnson, with Denny Hamlin behind him, pulled even with Keselowski.
“Everybody was just playing the odds,” Johnson said. “The majority of the competitors wanted to run the top. The draft really works in numbers. There’s more there than the bottom. With the side drafting being as effective right now, you could really choke down the bottom lane and pin a guy against the line and slow him down and then get away and have that long line of cars to surge you past.
“The game’s changed a little bit. It used to be defend the bottom, now it’s defend the top.”
For the next seven laps Johnson and Keselowski fought for the lead.
With six to go, a caution came out with Johnson narrowly leading. While his lead was small over Keselowski, it was huge in terms of the outcome of the race as it gave him lane choice for the restart, which came with six laps to go.
“It was just so hard to make up time on the bottom because there were fewer cars,” Johnson said. “I was hanging on side drafting, doing all I could to hang onto the 2 when I was close to him and the 16. The caution truthfully fell at a good time for us. Right when we surged ahead, that allowed me to get ahead for the driver’s choice for which lane he wanted.”
Johnson took the outside line and from there was able to move to a five-car length lead over Keselowski’s lower line.
“The high lane just had all the speed,” Keselowski said “It doesn’t mean we weren’t trying. It just wouldn’t go down there eon the bottom and it made it real hard to pass. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I would rather make that effort, and I did, but I kept going to the back. The only thing worse than not being able to make a pass, is being in the back. That is just the way it was today.”
Behind Johnson were Biffle and Patrick.
But on the final lap, Biffle and Patrick were shuffled backward by the bottom line and finish sixth and eighth.
“Ran up front all day long and we led a little,” Patrick, who started from the pole, said. “We stayed in the top-10 all day pretty much. Had nice pit stops by the GoDaddy crew, the car was fast and it’s always a little frustrating when you come through and your top three on that last lap. I will learn more for next time. I really didn’t feel like I had a great grasp as to ‘how do you go win this race’. I hadn’t wrapped my head around exactly how that was going to happen. I kept thinking about it out there because for the most part I was running half throttle for most of the race running in the line. I will know better for next time and for Talladega. I mean the same stuff will probably apply.”
Regan Smith finished seventh while Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley were ninth and 10th
In a race all but devoid of passing for the lead under green, Matt Kenseth appeared to have the best shot to get the
victory as he led the most laps. But with just over 50 laps to go, Kenseth was forced to the pits with car trouble.
“It’s disappointing obviously,” Kenseth said, “but it’s also really encouraging. I thought we did all the right things. We had a great pit stop right there at the end — I thought Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) had a great pit stop there at the end when we needed it. He just had a great strategy. Our Toyota was really fast. We had all the right things — we just didn’t make it to the end. Those are things we can fix. Really excited with how we ran and really thankful to be part of this team and just looking forward to getting to Phoenix.”
At the time, Toyotas were dominating the top five. But soon after Kenseth had trouble, Kyle Busch headed to the pits with a blown engine. Not long after that, the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. limped into the pits.
“We were in position there,” Truex Jr. said. “I am not sure what else we could have done. Up until then, everything was perfect. Toyota has been a great partner to us so I am sure they will look at our car as well as the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars who had trouble too and get us all back up and running for next week. It was a lot of fun out there driving this new NAPA Toyota.”
1. (9) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200, $1525275.
2. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 200, $1104814.
3. (14) Mark Martin, Toyota, 200, $817013.
4. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, $707855.
5. (34) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200, $572771.
6. (5) Greg Biffle, Ford, 200, $461664.
7. (40) Regan Smith(i), Chevrolet, 200, $411822.
8. (1) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, 200, $357464.
9. (38) Michael McDowell, Ford, 200, $366121.
10. (41) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 200, $338738.
11. (10) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 200, $373096.
12. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 200, $373399.
13. (26) Aric Almirola, Ford, 200, $356449.
14. (35) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, $330739.
15. (23) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 200, $337647.
16. (42) David Reutimann, Toyota, 200, $324872.
17. (30) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 200, $322785.
18. (24) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 200, $340052.
19. (21) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, $339097.
20. (2) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 200, $360799.
21. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200, $343279.
22. (29) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 200, $309564.
23. (31) Scott Speed, Ford, 200, $305514.
24. (37) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200, $340114.
25. (43) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 199, $317038.
26. (39) Terry Labonte, Ford, 199, $307838.
27. (33) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 198, $305539.
28. (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 195, $336234.
29. (17) Casey Mears, Ford, 181, $312314.
30. (18) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, Accident, 176, $311013.
31. (8) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 175, $313563.
32. (20) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 161, $328933.
33. (36) Carl Edwards, Ford, 159, $334164.
34. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Engine, 151, $377610.
35. (22) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 150, $308188.
36. (6) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 150, $334293.
37. (12) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Engine, 149, $544306.
38. (25) David Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 144, $283879.
39. (7) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 144, $318693.
40. (32) Josh Wise(i), Ford, Accident, 137, $276953.
41. (13) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 118, $320904.
42. (3) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, Accident, 47, $346418.
43. (27) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, Engine, 42, $264354.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 159.25 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 08 Mins, 23 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.129 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 24 laps.
Lead Changes: 28 among 14 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Patrick # 0; J. Gordon 1-31; J. Johnson 32-36; M. Kenseth 37-39; C. Bowyer 40; M. Kenseth 41-71; P. Menard 72; R. Newman 73-74; M. Waltrip 75; R. Newman 76; D. Hamlin 77-85; T. Kvapil 86; M. Waltrip 87-89; D. Patrick # 90-91; D. Hamlin 92; M. Kenseth 93-126; D. Patrick # 127-129; J. Logano 130-131; M. Kenseth 132-149; D. Hamlin 150-172; R. Smith(i) 173; Brad Keselowski 174-176; S. Speed 177-178; Brad Keselowski 179-185; J. Johnson 186; Brad Keselowski 187; J. Johnson 188; Brad Keselowski 189-190; J. Johnson 191-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Kenseth 4 times for 86 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 33 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 31 laps; J. Johnson 4 times for 17 laps; Brad Keselowski 4 times for 13 laps; D. Patrick # 2 times for 5 laps; M. Waltrip 2 times for 4 laps; R. Newman 2 times for 3 laps; S. Speed 1 time for 2 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 2 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 1 lap; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap; R. Smith(i) 1 time for 1 lap; T. Kvapil 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 12 in Points: J. Johnson – 47; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 42; M. Martin – 41; B. Keselowski – 41; R. Newman – 40; G. Biffle – 38; D. Patrick # – 37; M. McDowell – 35; J. Yeley – 34; C. Bowyer – 34; R. Stenhouse Jr. # – 32; A. Almirola – 31.No Comment