Johnson will get his due someday
Someday, perhaps, Jimmie Johnson will get the credit he deserves for the remarkable NASCAR career he has amassed – one that is far from over. Everyone within the sport seems to appreciate what Johnson has accomplished and not because it was handed to him in some fashion. Even Sunday, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered up glowing praise: “Jimmie is probably one of the best drivers this sport has ever seen.” The one group that seems unwilling to give Johnson his due is a large segment of the fan base. If it’s too difficult to appreciate Johnson’s accomplishments because he’s not your favorite driver, at least use his success as a goal you hope your driver can aspire towards.
• Of course the rest of the 13-member Chase field doesn’t want this year’s championship battle to be just a three-man race. But the top three in points – Matt Kenseth, Johnson and Kyle Busch – spent a good portion of Sunday’s race running among the top three and have combined to win 16 of 29 races this season. Some things are just that simple.
• Clint Bowyer appeared to be the only one who could make the distance without stopping for fuel after the final green-flag pit stops, which would have left him in position to inherit a win. However, a debris caution with 30 laps left removed that advantage. Irony?
How the Chase drivers fared
1 . Matt Kenseth, 2,149 points
Like winner Johnson, Kenseth took two tires on the final stop but restarted on the inside line and got shuffled back to seventh at the finish.
2. Jimmie Johnson (-8)
Johnson’s win was his eighth at Dover, Del., breaking a tie he shared with NASCAR legends Bobby Allison and Richard Petty. It was the 65th win of of Johnson’s Cup career.
3. Kyle Busch (-12)
Busch, too, had trouble starting on the inside line on the final restart but said he thought he had a fifth- to- seventh-place car and ended up fifth. “You look at the grand scheme of things and it’s three straight top-fives to start the Chase, so not bad,” he said.
t4. Kevin Harvick (-39)
Harvick struggled with the handling of his No. 29 Chevrolet but slowly improved it – ending up with a sixth-place finish.
t4. Jeff Gordon (-39)
Gordon did not want to see the final caution as he and his team thought it would be one of the few able to make the distance without stopping for fuel.
6. Greg Biffle (-41)
Biffle struggled with grip on his No. 16 Ford but still managed to finish ninth.
7. Ryan Newman (-48)
Newman ran as high as second in the race but drifted back to eighth at the finish.
8. Clint Bowyer (-51)
Bowyer was one of the few teams that could have made it to the finish without a final pit stop but lost that opportunity with the late caution.
9. Kurt Busch (-55)
A new pit crew didn’t prevent Busch from having to make a pit stop under green to fix a loose wheel. He ended up 21st and three laps down.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-57)
On the final restart, Earnhardt was the first car with four new tires but could only gain two positions over the final 26 laps.
11. Carl Edwards (-65)
Edwards was forced to the garage late in the race when something broke in the left rear of his car. He finished 35th.
12. Joey Logano (-66)
Logano had one of the fastest cars on the track at the finish and ended up third.
13. Kasey Kahne (-78)
Kahne wasn’t positive after the race but thought his No. 5 Chevrolet had an electrical problem that slowed his progress. He finished 13th.
5 key moments
1 . Dale Earnhardt Jr. dominates early, but while leading the race under green he misses pit road on Lap 118 and loses valuable time.
2 . Jimmie Johnson cycles into the lead for the first time on Lap 120 following green-flag stops.
3 . Brad Keselowski, who won this race en route to the Cup title a year ago, heads to the garage on Lap 227 with engine problems.
4 . Debris on the track brings out a caution on Lap 370 of 400. Johnson retains the lead and changes just two tires. Earnhardt restarts fourth with four new tires.
5 . Earnhardt makes a charge and closes to Johnson’s bumper twice over the final 26 laps, but Johnson holds him off for a record eighth victory at Dover