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Johnson scores 10th Dover Cup win in overtime

| , RacinToday.com Monday, June 1 2015
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Pro Services Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Jimmie Johnson, welcome to the club.

With his overtime victory in Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover (Del.) International Raceway, Johnson became the fifth driver to win 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at a single track, joining Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt in sharing that distinction.

Johnson’s victory was his series-best fourth of the season and the 74th of his career, eighth most all-time and two behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Earnhardt in seventh place.

Unlike many of the six-time champion’s past victories at the Monster Mile, this was not a dominating performance by the No. 48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS fielded by Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson led but 23 laps, and didn’t take the top spot until he beat race runnerup Kevin Harvick to the stripe for a restart on Lap 383.

Johnson quickly cleared Harvick and led the rest of the way, but not before a caution for a wreck involving Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch slowed the field on Lap 386. At that point, Johnson and Harvick were the only two drivers to stay out on old Goodyear tires, but Johnson was able to maintain control of the race on the subsequent restart on Lap 391.

He repeated the performance during a green/white/checkered-flag finish that took the event five laps past its posted distance of 400, after a wreck involving Greg Biffle and AJ Allmendinger produced the seventh caution on Lap 398 and forced overtime.

After the final restart on Lap 404, Johnson crossed the finish line 0.435-seconds ahead of Harvick, who posted his ninth top-two finish in 13 races this season and extended his series lead to 44 points over sixth-place finisher Martin Truex Jr.

Johnson said he was able to maintain the lead on old tires “just driving hard and working that track bar adjuster as much as I could.

“I was trying to be smart with my line and I guess guys on two tires weren’t all that fast. (Crew chief) Chad (Knaus) said something to me about that on the radio, and they never really came, you know? The No. 4 (Harvick) and I did just fine on old tires and held those guys off.”

Harvick, the reigning Cup champion from Stewart-Haas Racing, had no track bar to work with because the in-car adjuster had broken during the race.

“Yeah, we just struggled at the end of the race on restarts, really all day on the restarts,” said Harvick, who led 91 laps in the No. 4 ditech Chevy SS but failed to get his first victory at the high-banked concrete track. “Once the track bar broke, we were pretty much in a box and just kind of had to hold on for the first 25 laps (of a run), and if we weren’t in the front, then we struggled to just maintain what we had.

“All in all, everybody did a great job, and I think when you look at Dover, it’s been a good racetrack for us. We’ve led laps and just haven’t quite finished it yet, but a good, solid day.”

Kyle Larson, the 2014 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, ran third in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS, followed by Kasey Kahne, who tied his best Dover finish in fourth, and Aric Almirola. Starting on the outside of the front row next to Coors Lights Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Truex led a race-high 131 laps in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS_ racking up most laps-led in his third straight Cup points race without winning.

Hamlin led 118 laps in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, but was waylaid by the Lap 386 wreck and came home 21st, three laps down.

Notes: Johnson now has led 2,999 laps at Dover, one shy of become the seventh driver in Cup history to lead 3,000 laps at a single track… This was only the second green/white/checkered-flag finish at Dover, the first coming in the fall of 2005, and the first in a Cup race at the Monster Mile… In his second race back from surgery to repair his broken right leg and left foot, Kyle Busch was a fixture in the top five until Brian Scott’s Chevrolet collided with Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in Turn 3 on Lap 376. Busch finished 36th, suffering a setback to his hopes of finishing in the top 30 in the regular-season standings. Busch is 40th, 168 points behind 30th-place Justin Allgaier. …The series moves to Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 7.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, June 1 2015
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