Johnson wins NASCAR race in Dover
DOVER, Del. -- Jimmie Johnson became the first driver not named Matt Kenseth to win a race in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR postseason.
Johnson claimed a victory in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, the third of 10 races in the Chase.
Johnson also collected the most points possible in the race by leading the most laps -- 243 of the 400-lap race -- and leap-frogged Kyle Busch to move into second in the standings, eight points behind Kenseth. Johnson also became the all-time wins leader at Dover, recording his eighth career victory at the track.
His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished second. A third Hendrick driver, Jeff Gordon, also posted a top-five finish, finishing fourth. Joey Logano was third, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
Earnhardt restarted the race fourth after taking on four fresh tires during the final caution of the race on lap 369, while all three drivers in front of him -- Johnson, Gordon and Kenseth -- took two only. Earnhardt was able to take advantage once the race returned to green, getting by both Gordon and Kenseth on the restart. He wasn't able to catch Johnson, though.
Like Earnhardt, Logano was also among the drivers who took four tires during the final yellow flag and gained positions on most of those who took only two tires. While Gordon dropped back to fourth by the finish, Kenseth fell back to finish in seventh.
Earnhardt started on the pole and dominated the first quarter of the race, leading 76 laps before the first cycle of green-flag pit stops got underway just past lap 110.
Earnhardt lost several positions as a result of missing pit road on his first attempt to make a pit stop under green. As a result of the flub, Earnhardt wound up eighth after the cycle of stops was completed.
Johnson cycled into the lead and dominated much of the race. The three drivers who headed into Dover in the top three of the points standings -- Kenseth, Busch and Johnson - held the top three spots until Earnhardt made his way back up to second on a restart that followed a caution on lap 226. Gordon made his way up to third on lap 266 to give Hendrick Motorsports a monopoly on the top three.
The race field cycled through green-flag stops for a second time with just over 90 laps to go, and again, Earnhardt lost time getting on pit road. This time around, though, that lost time came as a result of getting stuck behind Mark Martin. Earnhardt was able to remain in the top five, winding up fourth after the cycle completed. Meanwhile, Johnson had the lead, Kenseth was second and Gordon third.
That green-flag cycle of stops came just outside the window that would allow cars to travel the remainder of the 400-lap distance without stopping again for fuel. Willing to take a gamble, Gordon was among the few willing to try to conserve fuel to go the rest of the way.
The decision on whether to try to stretch fuel mileage or stop for a splash of fuel late in the race became unnecessary when the yellow flag waved one last time on lap 369. At that point, the decision was whether to take two or four tires to the finish the race.
Kevin Harvick finished the race in the sixth position. Ryan Newman was eighth, Greg Biffle ninth and Clint Bowyer finished 10th
NOTES: In the 10 years since the Chase format was implemented, Johnson has won 24 percent of all Chase races.... The winner of the fall Dover race has gone on to win the Sprint Cup three out of the last four seasons.... The two drivers Johnson was tied with on the all-time Dover wins list before Sunday's win were NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.... With the win, Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus became the winningest crew chief at Dover with eight victories, breaking a tie with Leonard Wood of Wood Brothers Racing