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Johnson Wins 600 To Break His 2014 ‘Drought’

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 25 2014

Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag first at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Jimmie Johnson has been facing questions about his lack of victories in 2014 for weeks. On Sunday, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson rendered those questions irrelevant as he blew past Matt Kenseth with just under 10 laps to go and went on to secure the victory.

The victory, while his first of the year, was his seventh at CMS.

“It wasn’t in my head,” he said of talk about his 12-race winless “drought” in 2014.

“Twevel long races (since his last win). I guess we’ve created this environment for ourselves. I honestly wasn’t stressing. The fact that 12 races created that much buzz just means we’ve done a lot of great things over the years, so I’ll turn it into a compliment.”

Johnson led a race-best 165 laps in getting his 67th career win.

But afterward, the media still would not cut him a break on the subject of taking so long to get win No. 1 in 2014.

“I mean, the first goal is to make the Chase,” Johnson said. “You want to win races at the end of the season.  You have to win races at the end of the season to be the champions.

“Of course, we want to win early and often.  But we were holding steady in the championship points.  In my opinion, I don’t believe there will be 16 different winners.  I felt like a strong championship points position would get us into the first phase of the Chase.

“Granted, tonight simplifies things.  We’ll take it, move on.  We really want to heat up and win races later in the season, especially before the Chase starts.

“More than anything, I just got tired of answering the question.  There wasn’t a lot of frustration due to pressure of winning.  There was frustration in not having fast racecars, but that’s a different situation. We hold ourselves to a high standard.  I think we’re onto some good things and have a good direction to go with our race cars.”

Kevin Harvick, who blamed his team’s pit work for not winning, edged Kenseth for second.

“We had a fast car all night. Just kind of fumbled again on pit road,” Harvick said. “Got behind, got a lap down. We needed a 700‑mile race to get back to where we needed to be.

“All in all, they’re doing a great job of putting cars up on the track. We just have to clean up on pit road.”

Fourth was Carl Edwards while Jamie McMurray, winner of last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race at CMS, was fifth.

Johnson started from the pole and led all but three of the first 75 laps. On Lap 76 of the 400-lap race, Harvick used a lapped car as a pick and got past Johnson for the lead.

On lap 108, a caution flag waved for debris, erasing a 5-plus second lead by Harvick. During ensuing pit stops, Harvick was able to leave the pits first and restart with the lead on Lap 114. Ten laps later, however, Harvick’s lead was well over a second on second-place Johnson.

Harvick’s lead lasted until he was beaten off pit road by Johnson during a caution on Lap 148.

Johnson then led until the next caution, which came on Lap 164. While most of the lead-lap cars pitted, Brad Keselowski did not and assumed the lead.

On lap 192, Harvick, who did pit for fuel and tires, caught and passed the gambling Keselowski for the lead.

He held the lead until lap 223 when yet another debris caution flag come out.

While Harvick and most of the lead pack drivers pitted under yellow, Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not and took the lead. Also not pitting were McMurray and Tony Stewart. Harvick and Johnson were first off pit road and led the pitters.

On lap 235, a big crash – which involved Danica Patrick, who despite her top-10 qualifying run, sunk like

Kevin Harvick congratulates winner Jimmie Johnson after the 600. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

a an anchor in the race, and Marcos Ambrose, Landon Cassill and Josh Wise – resulted on pitting and Jamie McMurray moving to the lead.

On Lap 272, McMurray finally had to pit and handed the lead over to Kenseth.

On lap 275 of 400, Kurt Busch’s engine let go and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver who had finished all 500 miles at Indianapolis earlier in the day and finished sixth there, blew up.

“The motor just went,” Busch said. “Sometimes that happens.”

Johnson stayed out and took the lead while Kenseth led the field out of the pits for the restart.

On Lap 294, on a restart after a caution brought out when Patrick’s engine exploded, Kenseth moved past Johnson for the lead.

“Yeah, it’s really unfortunate,” Patrick, who was several laps down when her engine let go, said. “We started off great and started to get tighter and tighter. We couldn’t really figure out how to fix it. We had a good plan for the next yellow, then dropped a cylinder and lost power, then got rear-ended. That was our day. We’ll just remember the good stuff that happened here at Charlotte and at Kansas last race and build on that for Dover.”

On lap 312, Johnson moved low to reclaim the lead from Kenseth.

Twenty laps later, Johnson pitted, and that handed the lead to Keselowski. With 57 laps left, Keselowski had to pit for fuel and tires. Taking the lead was Aric Almirola – for a lap.

Emerging with the lead, but needing one more stop for fuel, with 55 laps to go was Johnson.

That stop came with 26 laps to go and it came under green flag conditions.

When the pitting cycled through, Edwards, pitting out of sequence, had the lead and enough fuel to go the distance.

And, he said, “That was the plan.”

But with 20 laps to go, Alex Bowman brought out a caution. The leaders pitted and by taking just two tires, Gordon emerged with the lead. Kenseth moved past Gordon on the restart with 17 laps to go. A couple laps later, Johnson moved past Gordon and into second place and began closing on Kenseth.

With nine laps to go, Johnson moved to Kenseth’s rear bumper and then bumped it a bit when Kenseth moved down to block. Kenseth was force up and Johnson moved past for the lead.

From there, it was clear sailing to the checkers.

“Yeah, I mean, it means a lot,” Johnson said of winning the 600. “Through the years a lot of references to this race as one of our majors. I certainly agree with that. 600 miles around here is no easy task.

“To deal with all the things that are thrown at a race team through the evening with the track changing, the mechanical obstacles that you have to overcome, keeping an engine alive, tires alive, all of it. It’s a serious team effort to finish 600 miles. And then win here, especially as hard as we had to run throughout the night, the pace we had to keep up, certainly proud of that.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, May 25, 2014

1. (1) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400, $465626.

2. (11) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400, $304313.

3. (12) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400, $249941.

4. (22) Carl Edwards, Ford, 400, $174980.

5. (26) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400, $186219.

6. (16) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 400, $166870.

7. (27) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 400, $169906.

8. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400, $150834.

9. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400, $164761.

10. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, $166653.

11. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400, $154546.

12. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, $151501.

13. (18) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 400, $148468.

14. (3) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 399, $131660.

15. (42) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 399, $121260.

16. (32) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 399, $156696.

17. (5) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 399, $146026.

18. (25) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 398, $134680.

19. (10) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 398, $115460.

20. (14) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 398, $103435.

21. (24) Greg Biffle, Ford, 398, $146385.

22. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 398, $112985.

23. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 398, $121518.

24. (34) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 398, $126643.

25. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 398, $129593.

26. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 397, $137310.

27. (31) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 397, $96960.

28. (39) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 396, $113893.

29. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 396, $126255.

30. (30) Michael McDowell, Ford, 396, $97685.

31. (35) David Ragan, Ford, 395, $118793.

32. (19) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 395, $108457.

33. (29) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 392, $98760.

34. (38) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 390, $106135.

35. (43) Blake Koch(i), Ford, 390, $95485.

36. (40) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 382, $95385.

37. (17) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 378, $103154.

38. (36) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, Engine, 303, $89350.

39. (4) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Engine, 281, $95850.

40. (28) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Engine, 271, $81350.

41. (37) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Accident, 229, $77350.

42. (41) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 162, $73350.

43. (33) David Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 160, $77850.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.484 mph.

Time of Race: 4 Hrs, 07 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.272 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 44 laps.

Lead Changes: 34 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Johnson 0; B. Keselowski 1; J. Johnson 2-47; B. Keselowski 48-49; J. Johnson 50-75; K. Harvick 76-95; J. Johnson 96-97; K. Harvick 98-108; J. Johnson 109; K. Harvick 110-149; J. Johnson 150-164; B. Keselowski 165-191; K. Harvick 192-212; J. Gordon 213; D. Earnhardt Jr. 214; J. McMurray 215; K. Harvick 216-223; J. Johnson 224; D. Earnhardt Jr. 225-236; J. McMurray 237-240; M. Kenseth 241; J. McMurray 242-270; M. Kenseth 271-276; J. Gordon 277; J. Johnson 278-293; M. Kenseth 294-311; J. Johnson 312-330; B. Keselowski 331-343; A. Almirola 344; J. Johnson 345-373; J. Gordon 374-375; C. Edwards 376-379; J. Gordon 380-383; M. Kenseth 384-391; J. Johnson 392-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Johnson 10 times for 164 laps; K. Harvick 5 times for 100 laps; B. Keselowski 4 times for 43 laps; J. McMurray 3 times for 34 laps; M. Kenseth 4 times for 33 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 2 times for 13 laps; J. Gordon 4 times for 8 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 4 laps; A. Almirola 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 432; M. Kenseth – 421; Kyle Busch – 408; C. Edwards – 408; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 394; J. Johnson – 388; J. Logano – 378; B. Vickers – 365; B. Keselowski – 361; R. Newman – 361; G. Biffle – 351; K. Harvick – 345; K. Larson # – 344; D. Hamlin – 340; A. Dillon # – 334; P. Menard – 328.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 25 2014
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