Johnson has way again at Dover
Ninth win on track is his 2nd straight Cup victory
Jimmie Johnson handled the pothole at Dover the same way he disposed of a rough patch to start the season.
A week after shaking off a lengthy winless streak by his championship standards, Johnson raced his way to another routine romp at Dover (Delaware) International Speedway. He followed last week’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 with another sensational run at Dover, extending his track victory record to nine.
Johnson was the class of the field in a race red-flagged for 22 minutes to repair a pothole in the concrete track.
“Whatever they put in the pothole, it worked awfully well,” Johnson said.
His No. 48 Chevrolet was even better.
Johnson led 272 of 400 laps, and won consecutive races for the 13th time. The six-time Cup champion swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and won races in 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.
“For sure, when you come to Dover, it’s always the 48,” Kenseth said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get ahead of him.”
Good luck. Johnson’s checkered flag celebrations at Dover have seemingly become a rite of the NASCAR season. He became Dover’s career leader in laps led when he hit the 2,802 mark, and again stamped himself as contender for a series-tying seventh championship.
“It’s amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires,” Johnson said. “This place just fits my style and (crew chief) Chad Knaus’ style.”
Johnson is heating up right as the NASCAR heads into its summer schedule. Up next, Pocono, where Johnson won last season and has two other wins.
“We can get on a roll,” he said. “We’ve got some good tracks ahead of us.”
Johnson had some wondering what was wrong after an 0 for 11 start to the season. Turned out, it was nothing racing at some of his favorite tracks couldn’t fix. But Johnson also revealed he had surgery to repair three hernias at the end of last season, which cost the No. 48 team testing time.
“We felt like it was time to shut things down and let the team kind of recoup,” he said.
Johnson never left any doubt his No. 48 Chevrolet was the car to beat, the only drama coming when the race was stopped 160 laps into the race after Ryan Newman’s car pulled up chunks of the track that kicked back and damaged Jamie McMurray’s car. The race was soon stopped and crews weren’t allowed to work on the cars.
McMurray’s plea for an exception was denied.
“It killed the front-end,” he said. “Our guys did a really good job recovering here putting all the stuff on and we salvaged what we could.”
More pieces of the track flew up and cracked a window on the pedestrian crossover bridge.
NASCAR officials and safety crews went to work on the potholes and applied a quick-drying concrete mix. Cup races were infamously delayed by potholes at Martinsville in 2004 and the 2010 Daytona 500. McMurray won at Daytona in 2010.
“It started to come back up at the end, but I didn’t think it was a major issue,” Keselowski said. “It was definitely a major issue at first when it happened. I could feel it when I was driving over it, and you knew it was only going to get worse.”
Kevin Harvick might have wished for a longer delay. Harvick’s lead at the red flag evaporated because of a flat tire not long after racing resumed and he fell two laps behind Johnson. Harvick worked his way back to place 17th.
Helio Castroneves easily won the second Detroit Grand Prix race of the weekend, finishing 1.6836 seconds ahead of Penske Racing teammate Will Power.
Castroneves’ lead was so large that when he made his final pit stop on Lap 49 he still was ahead when he got back on the track.
The competition got closer after cautions led to restarts with seven and three laps left, but Castroneves could not be caught.
The Brazilian has 29 IndyCar victories, tying Rick Mears for 11th on the career. Castroneves finished 0.060 seconds behind Ryan Hunter-Reay last week in the Indianapolis 500 in his bid to join Mears as a four-time winner in open-wheel racing’s signature event.
Richie Crampton raced to his first career Top Fuel victory in the NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey, to become the 100th category winner in NHRA history.
Crampton, the Australian making his ninth career start, powered his Morgan Lucas Racing-owned dragster to a 3.819-second pass at 320.51 mph to beat points leader Doug Kalitta at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Cruz Pedregon won in Funny Car, Jeg Coughlin in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
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