With a push from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson surged past Clint Bowyer about six inches from the finish line. The finish tied Ricky Craven’s victory over Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003 for the closest since the introduction of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(April 17, 2011)
TALLADEGA, Ala. — In a wild, three-wide, six-car finish at Talladega Superspeedway, Jimmie Johnson nipped Clint Bowyer by a record-tying .002 seconds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 race.
With a push from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson surged past Bowyer about six inches from the finish line. The finish tied Ricky Craven’s victory over Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003 for the closest since the introduction of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
The victory was Johnson’s first of the season and the 54th of his career. Jeff Gordon ran third and Earnhardt was fourth.
Kevin Harvick, who was pushing Richard Childress Racing teammate Bowyer, finished fifth. Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle finished sixth and seventh, and Mark Martin, who spent the afternoon in tandem with Hendrick teammate Gordon, finished eighth.
A wreck on Lap 140 wiped out two of the top championship contenders, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. Contact between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Joey Logano and Busch triggered the incident. Pushed by Logano, Busch spun to the inside and wiped out Kenseth in the process.
The cars of AJ Allmendinger and Denny Hamlin also sustained damage but were able to continue.
“I was just going straight on the bottom following Kurt (Busch) and got hit in the right-rear and put me straight in the wall,” Kenseth said. “I don’t really know what happened to cause that. Obviously, something happened beside me that got somebody into my right rear. I didn’t even know it was coming, just driving straight hoping to miss the rest of the bullets and get to the end and just got in a wreck.”
As the lead pack of cars headed into Turn 3 on Lap 90, fire erupted beneath David Ragan’s No. 6 Ford. As the field began to slow, contact from Kurt Busch’s No. 22 Dodge sent the No. 2 of Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski hard into the outside wall.
The Toyota of Kasey Kahne and the Fords of Marcos Ambrose and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne were collected in the melee.
“That was one of the harder hits I’ve taken, just because it was so much of a frontal impact across the track, off the apron, all the way to the wall,” Bayne said. “I don’t know who got us. I saw the 6 blowing up in front of us, so I keyed up the mic. I’m like, ‘It’s getting crazy in front of me, Greg’—I was on Greg Biffle’s radio at the time. As soon as I said that they blew up, Greg got off of me because I yelled, ‘Blowing up, blowing up.’
“He got off of me and at the same time the 2 car got hooked somehow. I don’t know that they triggered each other; I just saw the 2 get hooked at the same time the 6 was on fire. He (Keselowski) goes across the track, I saw him hit the outside wall, but then I don’t know who caught us in the right rear and sent us. But I thought we were safe. I was like, ‘Man, that was close,’ and about the time I said that I was headed toward the outside wall. So not a fun ride.”