Johnson Wins Dover; Chase For Cup Tightens
Jimmie Johnson passed Matt Kenseth for the lead at the halfway point of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway, led most of the rest of the way and captured race No. 3 of the Series’ 10-race playoff.
The victory was Johnson’s first of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship and the loss for Kenseth (he finished seventh) was his first in the Chase.
The win for Johnson, who only gave up the lead during green-flag pit cycling in the second half of the race, won for the fifth time this season and the eighth time at the Dover Monster Mile.
“All these things are great,” the five-time Cup champion said. “When you put the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and No. 20 (Kenseth) up there, it’s going to make it a very difficult deal. And I think it’s going to be fun for the fans to watch. We came to a good track and we got what we needed to, done. I know that No. 20 is going to be awfully strong for the rest of the stretch, and I look forward to racing with him.”
The win and bonus point for leading the most laps, moved him to within eight points of Kenseth in the points column.
“I still think it’s too early to say somebody can make a move,” Johnson said. “You just don’t want to give points up. Today we got max points so we didn’t leave any on the table and we will go to Kansas next week and see what we can do.”
Kenseth, who appeared to have a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota capable of pulling off a third-straight victory for much of the race, took the setback philosophically.
“When you look up, it’s everybody that finished in front of you – it’s all cars that you’re racing for points,” he said. “Overall, for how bad I felt like we struggled with the car, that was a decent finish.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, finished second.
Joey Logano was third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Busch fifth. Busch moved to within 12 points of Kenseth.
“We were about a fifth to seventh-place car much of the day and we ended up fifth,” Busch said. “The Interstate Batteries Camry got what it could out of it. Certainly, I wish we definitely could’ve gotten more. We probably could’ve if I could’ve got the outside lane on the final restart I probably could’ve finished third, but we didn’t get that. We had to fight through it and pass a couple cars the hard way and we ended up fifth. It’s certainly the finish that our car was today. It’s frustrating to be fifth, but yet you look at the grand scheme of things and it’s three straight top-fives to start the Chase so not bad.”
Kevin Harvick finished sixth, Ryan Newman eighth, Greg Biffle ninth and Clint Bowyer 10th.
Earnhardt Jr., who struggled with pit stops for much of the day, nearly won Sunday’s event because of a move made on the final stop of Sunday’s 400-miler.
The final stop came with just under 30 laps to go. During that stop, Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte opted to take four tires while the three cars in front of them took two.
Earnhardt restarted fourth with 25 laps to go and quickly moved to second. But even with the four fresh tires, he could not get to Johnson – who is now the winningest Cup driver at Dover.
“That’s real disappointing there,” Earnhardt said, “but Jimmie (Johnson) is really that fast. He’s that good around this place. I thought we might be able to get to him and I was definitely going to do whatever I could to win if I could get within reach. But I just couldn’t get to him. So, I’m just real disappointed. We’ve had a couple of good weekends. These are two of the best cars I’ve had all year. I’ve got to thank the team. But, running second is no better than running 10th. I’d like to get a trophy here soon.”
The margin of victory was .44 seconds.
“Two (tires) worked good for us in practice,” Johnson said. “And believe me; I wanted to see four tires line-up in the fourth or fifth row. When they lined up right behind me, I thought I was going to have my hands full. And I really did. Junior drove a whale of a race and track position really gave me the advantage I needed to hold him off.”2 Comments