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Jimmie Johnson Wins Dover Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 31 2009
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Nick Bromberg
RacinToday.com Special Correspondent

Jimmie Johnson dominated the Autism Speaks 400, but needed a spectacular late-race drive to win the race.

When a caution flag flew with 38 laps to go, Johnson was leading, but took four tires and had a slow pit stop and fell all the way to ninth.

Greg Biffle inherited the lead with a two-tire stop, and Tony Stewart exited second.

Stewart got past Biffle with eight laps to go, but had Johnson right on his tail as the two battled nose-to-tail for six laps until Johnson finally closed Stewart off on the high side and was able to complete the pass.

Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, said the pit snafu was unfortunate but, luckily, not costly.

“It was really a good day, and obviously Jimmie did a fantastic job there at the end,” Knaus said. “Unfortunately we had a little hiccup on the last pit stop.  We felt like we were going to come down pit read leading and be able to leave third or fourth with four fresh tires and make quick work of the guys ahead of us.  Unfortunately we came out I think it was eighth and really had to lean on Jimmie a little bit to carry us out, and he did a great job.”

“The fastest car won today,” Stewart said.

Johnson sure did not dispute that.

“The day obviously was a very fun one for us,” he said. “Chad and Greg Ives and our whole engineering staff, we sat down earlier in the week and worked on some ideas and – kind of like Bristol, after I finished third there, I told everybody that we sat down and made a wish list, and these guys made it all work, and they did it again.

“Very, very proud of the race car that these guys brought me.”

Biffle wasn’t expecting Johnson to make such a charge.

“The 48 was the class of the field today and I’m surprised he got all the way back up there again,” Biffle said.

But the second-place car grabbed the points lead. Stewart takes over the top spot in the championship standings thanks to Jeff Gordon’s 26th place finish. It’s the first time in 556 races that an owner-driver has been leading the points standings.

“We’re excited about it,” Stewart said of being point leader. “I mean, you know, it’s been a dream season for us up to this point, and you hope that you don’t wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden realize that we’re just getting ready to go to Daytona or something and it’s all been a dream to this point.

“I’m proud of our organization.  I’m proud of Bobby Hutchins, I’m proud of Darian Grubb, proud of our teammate Ryan Newman and Tony Gibson and our entire organization.  To get caught up like we had to do through the winter with the personnel changes and updating equipment and everything, you know, it took a lot just to get everything ready like they had it ready for Daytona, let alone to keep it ready and keep us going each week.  Just proud of our guys.

“I mean, it’s something that we probably all lost bets up to this point that we would be this far along.  But it’s a good bet to lose, I guess.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was really racy in the middle portion of the race, working all the way up to third, but faded towards the end of the race and finished 12th.

Kyle Busch was bitten by bad luck for the fifth straight NASCAR-sanctioned race, as a vibration that turned out to be a broken splitter forced him to pit from fifth position late in the race, and Busch wound up 23rd.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 31 2009
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