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Johnson Drives To Victory In Fort Worth – Again

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 12 2015
It was a familiar scene in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night: Jimmie Johnson and his crew celebrating a Sprint Cup win in Fort Worth. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

It was a familiar scene in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night: Jimmie Johnson and his crew celebrating a Sprint Cup win in Fort Worth. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin| Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and a worn-out 1.5-mile racetrack continue to be game/set/match for all contenders in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Johnson continued his recent domination of Cup races at Texas Motor sprint-logo-08Speedway Saturday night, rallying after a late pit stop for a victory in the 19th annual Duck Commander 500.

A six-time Cup champion, Johnson took the lead on Lap 321 of the scheduled 334 when he drove under and past Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick exiting the dogleg of TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval. The final 14 laps featured a battle between Johnson and Harvick, the reigning Cup champion, who finished second despite scraping the Turn 4 wall on Lap 331.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, finished 1.107-seconds ahead of Harvick and his No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS. Johnson, of Hendrick Motorsports, posted his 72nd career victory in 478 Cup starts and seventh for team-owner Rick Hendrick.

“The end of the race was nutty,” said Johnson, who said he woke up sick Saturday morning and addressed the media post-race through a scratchy voice. “Those last three pits tops with the varied tire strategies, our car wasn’t handling like it did when we were leading. The third one (on Lap 310), our car was really, really good and I was able to work our way forward. The No. 4 was having trouble with the No. 1 (of McMurray) and slid up. I was able to get by both of those guys and check-out. Just a lot of great racing; the (worn-out) surface of this racetrack allows that to happen.”

Johnson scored his fifth win at TMS and third in his last six starts, but his first victory in the spring event.  Johnson scored his first win of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a sister 1.5-mile layout to TMS, in Round 2 of the schedule. “I think the tracks with high-wear and bumps…I think the surface fits my style and Chad’s style and what we do together,” Johnson said in reference to crew chief Chad Knaus.

“This is a racetrack that falls into Jimmie’s liking,” said Knaus, still sporting his Victory Circle Stetson. “Do we always race at night (here) in the spring? We’ve run very, very well here in the spring race so I think it was just circumstances that we hadn’t been able to pull it off previously. Nothing specific.”

Johnson pitted with most of the lead pack during the race’s eighth and final caution period on Lap 310, when Knaus played it safe with a call for four Goodyear tires. Four drivers _ McMurray, Kyle Larson, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. _ opted for right side tires only. Johnson exited pit road in seventh after Larson was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes.

Johnson moved into third on Lap 317, behind leader McMurray and Harvick. Johnson completed his charge to the front on Lap 321, with Harvick taking second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also passing Jamie Mac.

“We did two (tires) two other times in the race and it worked out really well for us,” said McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Cessna/McDonald’s Chevrolet SS. “When I cleared the No. 24 (Gordon) I thought we had a legitimate shot at winning. I got checked-out it seemed like a straightaway. But once the guys with four tires got clear, their cars were a little better than ours and they had better tires. You just can’t hold them up there. The track is wide enough and they were enough faster than me that I really couldn’t even hold them up.”

Junior moved around Harvick on Lap 326 for second before Harvick returned the favor on Lap 329. Harvick then lost momentum on Lap 331 when he slid and scraped the wall in Turn 4 but still managed to maintain second. By then, Johnson was headed to the white flag.

“I looked in the mirror off to (Turn 2) and I saw the No. 4 in the wall,” Johnson said. “I figured that was the end of him and then he and the No. 88 (Earnhardt) raced each other so hard at the end. Just good fun. I think the No. 88, the No. 4 _ all of us that were involved in that there at the end just had a blast. That’s how racing should be and I’m so happy the fans got to see it.

“The No. 4 car has been the team to beat for the last two years. The mile-and-a half’s have really been the bread-and-butter for the No. 48, so I think those two worlds are kind of colliding. Not every mile-and- a-half has been favorable for us, but coming back to Texas we felt like we would really have a good race and be able to go up there and race with those guys and we did _ led a bunch of laps and I was able to get them for a win.”

Dale Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, finished third in his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS. Joey Logano, last year’s spring race winner here and the reigning Daytona 500 champion, finished fourth in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion and Logano’s Penske Racing teammate, finished fifth in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.

“I had the car I anticipated I would have,” Junior said. “We made some good adjustments. We seemed to have a good pattern of what was working for us and I think by the end of the race we had our car as good as we had it all night.

“I like racing here. I think it was a good show. It was raining debris out there for a while and we needed some green-flag runs to get some of the track position back that we were having trouble keeping. Finally the rain shower of debris ended and we were able to finish the race.”

Johnson led on nine occasions for a race-high 128 laps to become the third driver to record wins in the spring and fall races here, joining Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, both of Joe Gibbs Racing. Harvick, a two-time winner this season for Stewart-Haas Racing, also led nine times for 96 laps.

Harvick’s bid to end a winless streak at TMS that now stands at 0-for-25 was evident on Lap 314 after the last restart, when he nudged the rear bumper of Logano’s car and moved him out of the way while battling for third. Harvick rightly interpreted Logano’s tactic as blocking.

“Like the No. 22, you knock them out of the way and that’s the chance you take when you block,” said Harvick, who settled for his 13th top-10 finish in those 25 TMS starts.

Logano classified Harvick’s move as “hard racing,” then admitted he was blocking. “It’s the end of the race. I blocked him and he got into me,” Logano said. “I get it. Early in the race that’s not acceptable. End of the race we’re racing for the win. I’d do the same thing.”

Harvick exited Texas with a 25-point (306-280) lead over Logano in the driver’s championship, with Truex, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, third and 40 points out of the lead after a ninth-place result here.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Duck Commander 500

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, Texas

Saturday, April 11, 2015

 

  1. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334, $523501.
  2. (2) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 334, $379720.
  3. (25) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $255495.
  4. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 334, $246628.
  5. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, $215436.
  6. (10) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 334, $193201.
  7. (12) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 334, $191771.
  8. (4) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 334, $153035.
  9. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $163380.
  10. (16) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 334, $130210.
  11. (18) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 334, $146525.
  12. (7) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 334, $163070.
  13. (30) David Ragan, Toyota, 334, $169986.
  14. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334, $156445.
  15. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 334, $135345.
  16. (21) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 334, $137640.
  17. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, 334, $154073.
  18. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 334, $161915.
  19. (32) Aric Almirola, Ford, 334, $156876.
  20. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334, $155776.
  21. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 334, $148998.
  22. (27) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 334, $149298.
  23. (17) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 334, $150476.
  24. (11) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 334, $139154.
  25. (9) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 334, $138223.
  26. (29) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 334, $135060.
  27. (20) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 333, $131248.
  28. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 333, $127648.
  29. (36) Brett Moffitt #, Toyota, 333, $133004.
  30. (40) Chris Buescher(i), Ford, 332, $101540.
  31. (39) Michael McDowell, Ford, 332, $98115.
  32. (33) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 332, $100015.
  33. (34) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 330, $110573.
  34. (42) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 330, $104362.
  35. (31) Cole Whitt, Ford, 330, $96190.
  36. (37) Mike Bliss(i), Ford, 328, $92565.
  37. (43) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 325, $91418.
  38. (35) Josh Wise, Ford, 284, $84403.
  39. (24) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 257, $88340.
  40. (28) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, Accident, 246, $76340.
  41. (8) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, Engine, 222, $80340.
  42. (13) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, Engine, 71, $68340.
  43. (41) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Engine, 13, $64840.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  140.5 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 33 Mins, 57 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.107 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 40 laps.

Lead Changes:  29 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Busch 0; K. Harvick 1-33; K. Busch 34-36; K. Harvick 37; K. Busch 38-79; J. Gordon 80-81; B. Keselowski 82-108; J. Johnson 109; K. Harvick 110; J. Johnson 111-124; K. Harvick 125-155; J. Johnson 156; K. Harvick 157; K. Kahne 158-159; J. Johnson 160-172; K. Harvick 173; J. Johnson 174-220; P. Menard 221; K. Kahne 222-225; J. Johnson 226-228; K. Harvick 229; J. Johnson 230-250; K. Harvick 251; J. Johnson 252-265; J. Logano 266-284; K. Harvick 285-310; J. McMurray 311-312; J. Gordon 313; J. McMurray 314-320; J. Johnson 321-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Johnson 9 times for 128 laps; K. Harvick 9 times for 96 laps; K. Busch 2 times for 45 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 27 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 19 laps; J. McMurray 2 times for 9 laps; K. Kahne 2 times for 6 laps; J. Gordon 2 times for 3 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 306; J. Logano – 280; M. Truex Jr. – 266; B. Keselowski – 246; K. Kahne – 230; J. Johnson – 216; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 213; D. Hamlin – 205; A. Almirola – 195; D. Ragan – 194; J. Mcmurray – 193; M. Kenseth – 189; J. Gordon – 186; C. Edwards – 182; C. Mears – 178; P. Menard – 177.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 12 2015
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