Johnson wins in a thrilling finish at Talladega|
Talladega, AL (Sports Network) - With pushing help from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on
the final lap, Jimmie Johnson edged Clint Bowyer by the slimmest of margins to
win Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Johnson, the five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion, worked with his
Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Earnhardt Jr., in a two-car tandem for a
majority of the 500-mile race.
Earnhardt Jr. pushed Johnson on the inside lane, while Richard Childress
Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Bowyer and the Hendrick duo of Mark Martin
and Jeff Gordon ran on the outer lanes through turns three and four on the
last lap around the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
Johnson pulled ahead of Bowyer for the lead just yards away from the finish
line, and then beat Bowyer to the line by only 0.002 seconds for his second
Talladega win. His first victory here came in May 2006.
Johnson's margin of victory tied the closest race finish in NASCAR's top-tier
series since the sanctioning body began using electronic timing and scoring in
1993. Ricky Craven beat Kurt Busch by the same margin in the 2003 spring race
"We got hooked up and rolling, and then all of the sudden, there were two
groups in front of us," Johnson said. "We had a big run on the backstretch.
Then I just rode through three and four, and I'm thinking, 'We'll get another
chance I hope.' They were all worried about each other in the second and third
lane and left the bottom lane open. We had some big momentum on our side and
off we went. It was great how the plan worked out."
Johnson claimed his 54th career Cup victory, but his first since last
September at Dover (15 races ago).
Bowyer was attempting to win his second straight Talladega race. Last October,
he nipped Harvick in a chaotic finish here.
"We did everything we could do," said Bowyer, who led the most laps with 38.
"I saw them [Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.] coming in the mirror. I was saying,
'The 24 [Gordon] better start blocking those guys, and they were too worried
about racing us. Just all hell breaking loose. That's what happened."
Jeff Gordon, the pole sitter, finished third, while Earnhardt Jr. took the
fourth spot and Harvick, who won this race one year ago, came in fifth.
"I was more comfortable pushing Jimmie, and I thought we were the faster
combination that way," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We just kind of hung in there
together. We got clear of the pack coming to the white [flag], and I told
Jimmie to not lift no matter what happens."
Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak in the series is now 101 races.
"If I couldn't win the race, I wanted Jimmie to win it, because I was working
with him all day long," he added.
Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Martin, David Gilliland and Joey Logano completed
The margin among the top-eight finishers was just 0.145 seconds in a race that
featured a NASCAR record-tying 88 lead changes. There were the same amount of
lead swaps in last year's spring race at Talladega.
Three of the six cautions in the race came for multi-car wrecks, including one
for a six-car incident just before the halfway point.
Brad Keselowski spun and then collided into David Ragan after he was hit from
behind by his Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch. Ragan's engine blew just
before Keselowski ran into him.
"It was wild ride, but it's just part of racing at Talladega," said
Keselowski, who won the spring race here in 2009.
Trevor Bayne, the Daytona 500 champion, and Kasey Kahne were among those
caught up in the crash. The rear of Kahne's car erupted into flames when he
drove onto pit road. He quickly exited the car unharmed.
"I saw [Ragan's] car blow up in front of me, and then saw fire come out from
underneath it," Bayne said. "[Biffle] did a good job getting off the back of
me. At the same time, somehow the 2 car [Keselowski] got hooked. So I just
went down to the bottom and got on the apron. Then somebody caught me in the
A five-car crash occurred with 49 laps remaining. Kyle Busch got hit from
behind by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Logano, while the two were
drafting. Busch spun around and took out Matt Kenseth, who won last weekend's
race at Texas. A.J. Allmendinger was also involved in the incident.
"I was following Kurt [Busch], and we were making some good moves up there,"
Kenseth said. "All I could see was the guy's spoiler and nothing else moving
at 200 m.p.h., which is not the safest environment."
Edward remained the points leader, holding a five-point advantage over
04/17 18:41:38 ET